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Flavius Josephus

to the

Journal for the Study

of Judaism

Benjamin G. Wright, III

Department of Religion Studies, Lehigh University
Associate Editors

Florentino Garca Martnez

Qumran Institute, University of Groningen

Hindy Najman
Department and Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto
Advisory Board

g. bohak j.j. collins j. duhaime p.w. van der horst

a.k. petersen m. popovi j.t.a.g.m. van ruiten
j. sievers g. stemberger e.j.c. tigchelaar
j. magliano-tromp

Flavius Josephus
Interpretation and History

Edited by

Jack Pastor, Pnina Stern, and Menahem Mor


This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Flavius Josephus : interpretation and history / edited by Jack Pastor, Pnina Stern, and
Menahem Mor.
p. cm. (Supplements to the Journal for the study of Judaism ; v. 146)
This volume was born of an international conference entitled Making history:
Josephus and historical method held at the University of Haifa from 26 July,
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-19126-6 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Josephus, FlaviusCongresses.
2. JewsHistory168 B.C.135 A.D.HistoriographyCongresses. I. Pastor, Jack,
1947 II. Stern, Pnina. III. Mor, Menahem.
DS115.9.J6F54 2011

ISSN 1384-2161
ISBN 978 90 04 19126 6
Copyright 2011 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.
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Fees are subject to change.


List of Contributors ............................................................................

List of Illustrations .............................................................................
Abbreviations ......................................................................................


Introduction .........................................................................................

The Historical Chronology of the Hasmonean Period in the

War and Antiquities of Flavius Josephus: Separating Fact
from Fiction ....................................................................................
Kenneth Atkinson
Socio-economic Hierarchy and its Economic Foundations
in First Century Galilee: The Evidence from Yodefat and
Gamla ...............................................................................................
Mordechai Aviam


Le Systme Sacrificiel de Flavius Josphe au Livre III des

Antiquits Juives (Ant. 3.224236) ..............................................
Christophe Batsch


Between Fact and Fiction: Josephus Account of the

Destruction of the Temple ............................................................
Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev


Flavius Josephus in Rome .................................................................

John Curran
Bemerkungen zum Aufstand des Judas Galilaeus sowie zum
Biblischen Bilderverbot bei Josephus, Hippolyt und
Pseudo-Hieronymus ......................................................................
Niclas Frster



Reconstructing Exodus Tradition: Moses in the Second Book

of Josephus Antiquities ................................................................. 111
Giovanni Frulla



Unity and Chronology in the Jewish Antiquities .........................

Dov Gera


Polybius and Josephus on Rome .....................................................

Erich S. Gruen


Convenient Fiction or Causal Factor? The Questioning

of Jewish Antiquity according to Against Apion 1.2 ..............
Gunnar Haaland
Where is the Temple Site of Onias IV in Egypt? .........................
Gohei Hata
Constructing Herod as a Tyrant: Assessing Josephus Parallel
Passages ...........................................................................................
Jan Willem van Henten
Josephus at Jotapata: Why Josephus Wrote What He Wrote .....
Tessel M. Jonquire





Josephus on Herods Spring from the Shadows

of the Parthian Invasion ...............................................................
Aryeh Kasher


Josephus on Poisoning and Magic Cures or, On the Meaning

of Pharmakon .................................................................................
Samuel S. Kottek


Josephus and Discrepant Sources ...................................................

Etienne Nodet


Josephus, the emple, and the Jewish War ..................................

Eyal Regev


The Purposes and Functions of the Synagogue in Late Second

Temple Period Judaea: Evidence from Josephus and
Archaeological Investigation .......................................................
Samuel Rocca




Propaganda, Fiktion und Symbolik: die Bedeutung des

Jerusalemer Tempels im Werk des Josephus ...........................
Gottfried Schimanowski


Josephus, Catullus, Divine Providence, and the Date of the

Judean War .....................................................................................
Daniel R. Schwartz


Josephus the Stage Manager at the Service of Josephus the

Dramatist: Masada as Test Case .................................................
Yuval Shahar


Josephus and Justus: The Place of Chapter 65 (336367)

in Life, the Autobiography of Flavius Josephus .......................
Pnina Stern


A Jewish Priest in Rome ...................................................................

Michael Tuval


To be or not to be . . . An Historical Interpretation of

2 Kings 17 in Josephus Antiquities ...........................................
Jzsef Zsengellr


General Index .....................................................................................



Kenneth Atkinson, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa,

Mordechai Aviam, Institute for Galilean Archaeology, Kinneret
College, Israel
Christophe Batsch, Universit de Lille, Lille, France
Miriam Ben Zeev, Ben Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel
John Curran, The Queens University of Belfast, Belfast, Northern
Niclas Frster, Westflische Wilhelms-Universitt, Institutum Judaicum
Delitzschianum, Mnster, Germany
Giovanni Frulla, Istituto Teologico Marchigiano, Ancona, Italy
Dov Gera, Ben Gurion Univ. of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
Erich S. Gruen, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
Gunnar Haaland, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway
Gohei Hata, Tama Art University, Tokyo, Japan
Jan Willem van Henten, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The
Tessel Jonquire, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Aryeh Kasher, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Samuel S. Kottek, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

list of contributors

Etienne Nodet, cole Biblique, Jerusalem, Israel

Eyal Regev, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
Samuel Rocca, Ariel University Center of Samaria, Ariel, Israel
Gottfried Schimanowski, Schulreferat Saarbruecken, Germany
Daniel R. Schwartz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Yuval Shahar, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Pnina Stern, Kiryat Motzkin, Israel
Michael Tuval, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Jzsef Zsengellr, Karoli Gaspar Reformed University, Budapest,


Photo 1: Tel el Yehudiyeh .................................................................

Photo 2: Tel Basta ...............................................................................
Plan 1: Plan of the Royal Stoa at the southern end of the
Temple Mount ................................................................................
Plan 2: Plan of the Gamla Synagogue .........................................
Plan 3: Plan of the Synagogue of Kiryat Sefer ...............................
Picture 1: Masada from Camp F ......................................................
Picture 2: Map of the ascent to the rock of Masada ....................
Picture 3: The tower on the path .....................................................
Picture 4: The ramp in the rear of the tower .................................
Picture 5: Leuce below the elevation of Masada ............................
Picture 6: The tower about 1000 cubits from the akra ................
Picture 7: The battle arena ................................................................
Picture 8: The rocks of the fortress abutted on the adjacent
mountain ..........................................................................................
Picture 9: Schematic section of the topographical
Picture 10: Jotapata ............................................................................
Picture 11: Gamala .............................................................................
Picture 12: Jotapatathe rule as against the exception to
the rule .............................................................................................
Picture 13: Gamalathe rule as against the exception to
the rule .............................................................................................
Picture 14: Gamalahouses built steeply on the mountainside
one on top of another ....................................................................



We have adopted the abbreviation of the SBL Handbook of Style: For

Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies, Ed. Patrick H. Alexander et al., Peabody 1999. Additional abbreviations are as

Inscriptiones graecae ad res romanas pertinentes, I. Edited by

R. Cagnat et al.
Scripta Classica Israelica


Regarding Josephus Flavius one might paraphrase Churchill and say:

Never in the history of history has so much been written by so many
about so few. As cynical as that statement might appear at first, it has
more than just a kernel of truth. Josephus supports an entire world of
research which encompasses Biblical studies, Jewish history, Hellenistic and Roman history, New Testament studies, Jewish Thought and
Philosophy, Land of Israel studies, Classical languages, and of course
the study of Josephus himself as both historian and public man. In
this volume alone of twenty four articles we have found the following
topics: Jewish ritual, art, bible, political history, autobiography, textual
studies, economic history, Jewish sects, magic and medicine, archaeology, and the history of the Jewish Diaspora. Hopefully the volume we
present before you is another, worthwhile, contribution to the world
of study that Josephus provides.
This volume was born of an international conference entitled Making History: Josephus and Historical Method held at the University of
Haifa from 26 July, 2006. The conference brought together scholars
from eleven countries, many languages, disciplines, and affiliations.
In all, twenty eight lectures were presented of which twenty four are
included in this volume.
The conference included guided visits to the archaeological excavations of Sepphoris and Yodefat led by archaeologists actually excavating these sites which are so important to the writings of Josephus.
The conference organizers are grateful to Zeev Weiss and Mordechai
Aviam for guiding us through the antiquities of Sepphoris and the
remains of the battle of Yodefat. The conference also included a guided
tour of the valuable and interesting collection of the Hecht Museum
at the University of Haifa. We also wish to extend our thanks to the
museum curator Ofra Rimon for her hospitality and generosity in
sharing her knowledge of the museums rich assortment of artifacts
and displays.
We begin this collection of articles with Kenneth Atkinson who presents a new analysis of how Josephus used his historical sources to create
his version of Hasmonean history from the time of John Hyrcanus I to
Aristobulus II. Atkinson examines the history in Josephus comparing


it to papyri, inscriptions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other literature to

reconstruct the chronology of the latter Hasmonean period.
Mordechai Aviam, the excavator of Yodefat, uses the archaeological discoveries found at that unfortunate city and material found in
other Galilean sites to reach a new appraisal of the socio-economic
structure of the Galilee up to the time of the First Jewish Revolt. His
careful reading of Josephus in light of the archaeology contradicts the
common idea of a society schematically divided between rich urban
dwellers and poor rural villagers.
Analyzing Josephus systematic presentation of the temple sacrifices
Christophe Batsch finds indications of how the sacrificial systems
were able to evolve into a non-sacrificial system after the destruction
of the temple, thereby enabling Judaism to survive without them.
Miriam Ben Zeev reexamines the controversy regarding Josephus
account of the burning of the Jerusalem temple. Rather than simply
restating and supporting either Josephus version or the contradictory
account of Sulpicius Severus, Ben Zeev scrutinizes the concerns underlying Josephus version.
Continuing with the question of Josephus concerns after the war,
John Curran places him within the context of the Jews in Rome, and
their relationship with the Roman society and government there.
Niclas Frster takes a look at the Patristic sources and discovers that
they have as yet not been fully employed as a basis of comparison to
the writings of Josephus on the Fourth Philosophy and the Zealots.
The Exodus traditions as presented by Josephus in the Jewish Antiquities are examined by Giovanni Frulla. He finds tracks of the religious
expectations of the Hellenistic and pre-Christian Judaism. Moreover
his examination reveals aspects of the oral traditions current in first
century ce Judaism.
Dov Gera discusses the unifying chronology of the Antiquities,
pointing out that Josephus did not divide the book into biblical and
post-biblical halves, but rather modern scholars have done so. He suggests that a detailed inspection of the chronological system used by
Josephus might explain some of the oddities in the narrative.
The striking parallels between the careers, situations, and writing of
Josephus and Polybius are considered by Erich Gruen. He brings attention to a little known aspect of their writings: a subversive sub-stratum
that criticizes the discreditable actions and behavior of the Roman
Empire. This censure of Rome, suggests Gruen, may increase our understanding of both these historians and their anticipated audience.


Discussing Josephus claim that in his time there were those who
dismissed the antiquity of the Jewish nation Gunnar Haaland concludes that this claim was not a literary convention used to justify
the writing of Contra Apionem. He suggests that these claims were a
reflection of a historical reality and were a causal factor for the composition of this work.
Gohei Hata confronts current and past suggestions for the location
of the temple of Onias in Egypt that Josephus described. He suggests a
possible answer based on the archaeological work recently done in that
country and comes to the conclusion that Tell el Yehudiyeh, the present favorite cannot be right. He suggests that the place named Bubastis
(the present Tell Basta) is the site of Onias IVs temple.
Tessel Jonquire revisits the cave in which Josephus hid after the
fall of Yodefat. She points out that the scene as related by Josephus
is unique to War in that it contains the longest prayer quoted in that
work and the only time he explicitly claims to be a prophet. Jonquire
suggests that a reexamination of this story might shed light on Josephus way of writing.
The contribution of Aryeh Kasher highlights the crucial importance
of the Parthian invasion of the eastern Roman Empire as the basis
for Herods rise to royalty. Kasher explains that the confluence of the
invasion, the Parthian support for Herods rivals, and the political situation in Rome made the crowning of Herod almost inevitable.
Josephus wide-range of interests brings us to Samuel S. Kottek,
a physician as well as an historian, who relates the importance and
diversity of magic cures and poisons in Josephus writings and in his
contemporaneous society. Kottek also discusses the influence of these
practices and beliefs on medieval magic and medicine.
Etienne Nodet considers that Josephus sloppiness as well as his biases
are not the only explanation for his strange statements or inconsistencies.
Nodet suggests that these can be explained by his attempt to preserve all
the data that was available to him. His paper presents a sample of such
cases, which may provide a glimpse into Josephus biblical sources or
allow a reassessment of the historical details in his works.
Post-modern history can be applied to Josephus writings as demonstrated by Eyal Regev. He uses Josephus attacks on the Zealot party
as an instrument to reconstruct the Zealot arguments against the socalled moderates. In so doing, Regev provides a case-study of the
applicability of post-modern theory to historical research on Josephus
and his writings.


An understanding of the archaeology of the ancient synagogue

through the use of Josephus works is the contribution of Samuel
Rocca. He expands on the role of the synagogue not only as a place
of prayer, but as a multipurpose public building used for assemblies
and courts of justice. He compares the synagogue and its uses to the
situation of similar buildings in non-Jewish localities.
Gottfried Schimanowski discusses the importance of the temple in
Jerusalem as a symbol, and as collection of symbolic artifacts and how
these in turn correspond to the philosophies of the Gentiles.
Book 7 of Josephus War is the subject of Daniel R. Schwartzs
contribution to this volume. He concludes that it was finished before
the reign of Domitian, however it was reworked as a result of the
transformation of Josephus from a Jew with Judean values into a
Diasporan Jew.
Yuval Shahar rescues Josephus topographical descriptions from the
criticisms leveled at them by historians and archaeologists. He demonstrates that in fact Josephus descriptions are accurate, and explains
the ostensible differences between the description and the physical
reality. Shahars conclusions can be useful in assessing the physical
descriptions for other locations such as Yodfat, Tarichaeae, Gamla,
and Jerusalem.
The real reasons for the composition of the Life by Josephus are
taken to task by Pnina Stern. She finds that only chapter 65 in Life
is a rebuttal of the attacks by Justus of Tiberius, but that the rest of
the composition was written for reasons having nothing to do with
Michael Tuval points out that in Rome after the destruction Josephus attached great importance to his status as a priest although he
was far from Jerusalem and the temple no longer existed. He suggests
that the priestly status was significant to him because of its high status
in the eyes of Diaspora Jews and pagans.
Starting with the New Testament narrative of the murder of the
innocents Jan Willem van Henten compares the divergent descriptions of Herod as a tyrant found in Josephus War and Antiquities.
He assesses the accuracy of these descriptions and their usefulness as
topoi about tyrants in general.
Jzsef Zsengellr examines Josephus interpretation and version of
the fall of the Kingdom of Israel and the origin of the Samaritans.
Josephus was the first who interpreted the passage of 2 Kings 17 which
relates these events. Josephus connected the Samaritan problem of his


own time to the explanation of this story on the exile and repopulation of Samaria/Northern Israel. Zsengellr attempts to determine
what factors lead to Josephus conception of this event.
In closing we gratefully acknowledge the assistance and hard work
provided by Tami Laviel and Pninit Tal of the University of Haifa.
We also wish to acknowledge the contribution of the University of
Haifa, Faculty of Humanities and the Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Center for
the Study of Eretz-Israel for their support of the conference. We also
wish to express our thanks to Tim Langille for his suggestions. Finally,
we wish to express our gratitude to Oranim, the Academic College of
Education for its support in bringing this volume to publication.
The Editors


Kenneth Atkinson

I. Introduction
The writings of Flavius Josephus are among the most important texts for
students of the Hasmonean period. Although Flavius Josephus wrote
his books nearly a century after the end of Hasmonean rule, he had
access to many lost historical works that documented this time. Unfortunately, a comparison of events, battle narratives, and geographical
locations in Josephus books and other works, such as 12 Maccabees,
that also recount the Hasmonean period reveal many differences. It is
difficult to determine which, if any, of these or other texts have preserved a reliable historical chronology for the major events of the Hasmonean era. This article addresses this issue by exploring Josephus
alteration of history to reshape his presentations of the Hasmonean
rulers from John Hyrcanus I to Aristobulus II. In the process, it will
offer a new chronology for some events of this time that differs substantially from the sequence presented in Josephus works.
This study focuses on how Josephus has creatively shaped his depictions of the Hasmonean rulers from John Hyrcanus I to Aristobulus II.
Because most of Josephus sources are no longer extant, I will not
engage the large body of scholarship on the nature or identity of these
lost works. Rather, I will highlight some neglected texts and archaeological evidence that help us to understand how Josephus has crafted
his accounts of the Hasmonean period. For each Hasmonean ruler, I
will begin with a section simply titled fiction, which merely summarizes
Josephus accounts. This is followed by a fact section that will attempt
to offer a historically accurate account of what actually occurred. The
conclusion offers a few observations regarding the importance of
Josephus social location in Rome for understanding why he chose to
revise his portrayals of the Hasmonean rulers to produce books that
are, to a great extent, works of historical fiction.

kenneth atkinson
II. John Hyrcanus

1. Fiction
John Hyrcanus is clearly the hero of the Hasmonean period in Josephus books.1 According to the Antiquities, Hyrcanus was a pious
youth (Ant. 13.228) when he became high priest after the assassination of his father Simon by Ptolemy. He delayed his attack upon
Ptolemys stronghold in order to offer sacrifices in the temple as high
priest. Hyrcanus was forced to abandon his siege due to the arrival of
the Sabbatical year. According to Josephus, he had no choice in the
matter since Jews were not permitted to fight at this time.
Upon returning to Jerusalem, Hyrcanus was immediately attacked
by Antiochus VII Sidetes. In Wars brief account, Hyrcanus had no
option but to plunder Davids tomb to pay off Antiochus. He then
hired a mercenary force to protect Judea. However, in the Antiquities Hyrcanus mounted a spirited defense. During Antiochus siege
of Jerusalem, Hyrcanus expelled the non-combatants from the city to
conserve his diminishing supplies. Although Antiochus did not help
these innocent civilians, it is Hyrcanus who comes across as the villain
of Josephus narrative because he too allowed them to starve. Once
again, the arrival of a religious holidaythe Feast of Tabernacles
ended Hyrcanus plight. Antiochus agreed to respect this festival and
provide the necessary sacrifices as well as make peace with Hyrcanus.
Because of his piety, Antiochus purportedly earned the sobriquet
Eusebes (Ant. 13.244).
Josephus War and Antiquities disagree as to what happened next.
In the War (1.62), Hyrcanus invaded Syria while Antiochus fought the
Parthians. Hyrcanus managed to annex several cities and destroyed
Samaria.2 However, in the Antiquities, Hyrcanus was obligated to
render military assistance to the Seleucids and accompany Antiochus
on his Parthian campaign (Ant. 13.24953). According to Josephus,
Hyrcanus was saved for the third time by the arrival of a religious
holiday. After defeating the Parthians in battle, Antiochus had to leave
Hyrcanus and his troops behind so that they could celebrate Pentecost

1 Macc. 16:1825; Ant. 13.230300; War 1.5469.

Josephus lists the following cities: Madaba, Samaga/Samoga, Shechem, Mt. Gerizim where the Cutheans lived, and the Idumean cities of Adora and Marisa (War
1.63; Ant. 13.255257).

separating fact from fiction

and the Sabbath: times during which Jews were supposedly not permitted to fight. According to the Antiquities, Antiochus was killed in
a subsequent engagement with the Parthians and much of his army
was destroyed. Hyrcanus then took advantage of Antiochus death and
invaded Syria.
The Antiquities places Hyrcanus Syrian invasion following Antiochus death (Ant. 13.254). This took place while Hyrcanus was taking
part in his Parthian campaign, which is omitted in the War (1.1.62). It
continues with his destruction of the schismatic Samaritan temple on
Mt. Gerizim and his renewal of his familys treaties with Rome (Ant.
13.25966). The Seleucids were so weak at this time that Hyrcanus
declared his independence (Ant. 26884).3 His sons Judah Aristobulus and Antigonus then besieged Samaria. God informed Hyrcanus of
their victory while he burned incense in the temple (Ant. 13.27583).
This is followed by a description of the favorable position of the Jews
in Egypt under Cleopatra III (Ant. 13.28587). Next, the Pharisees,
acting out of envy, challenged Hyrcanus legitimacy to hold the high
priesthood. Consequently, Hyrcanus had no choice but to join the Sadducees since the Pharisees now clearly represented the masses and the
potential for mob rule (Ant. 13.28898. Cf. War 1.67). Josephus concluded both works with a eulogy, which stated that God had bestowed
only upon Hyrcanus the three highest privileges: secular rule, the high
priesthood, and the gift of prophecy (Ant. 13.299319; War 1.689).
In his War Josephus commented that Hyrcanus had even predicted
the downfall of Judah Aristobulus and Antigonus, as well as the rise
of Alexander Jannaeus (War 1.69; Cf. Ant. 13.32223).
2. Fact
Josephus account of Antiochus one-year siege of Jerusalem and its
abrupt end to celebrate a religious festival sounds rather implausible.
However, there may be some truth to this seemingly improbable story.
Josephus and Porphyry offer different dates for this siege, a differentiation which may be the result of later scribal errors. However, it cannot

In War 1.65 Josephus mistakenly refers to Antiochus VIII Grypus by the surname
Aspendius. He corrects this error in Ant. 13.276. For this issue, see further Sievers
2005, 35. For Hyrcanus coinage as a sign of his independence, see further Schrer
1973, 1: 21011; Rooke 2000, 305; VanderKam 2004, 3078. For the problems in
Seleucia at this time, see further Bevan 1902, 24768; Schrer, 1973, 1: 2079.


kenneth atkinson

be ruled out that the conflicting dates they offer for this siege reflect
different calendars (Macedonian verses Attic) used in the sources they
consulted. The siege clearly lasted over a year since Josephus mentioned that it began during the setting of the Pleiades, which occurs
in November, and was still in progress when the Feast of Tabernacles
arrived in October.4 The siege most likely took place in the first year
of Hyrcanus reign (135/4 bce). After besieging Jerusalem for over a
year, Antiochus abruptly abandoned the siege and allowed Hyrcanus
to celebrate Tabernacles.
Tessa Rajak has suggested that Josephus senatorial decrees, which
mention an unspecified Antiochus, date to this time.5 If so, they
offer a plausible explanation for Antiochus perplexing behavior. The
Romans likely intervened diplomatically on Hyrcanus behalf in order
to check Antiochus territorial ambitions. Although the Romans likely
saved Hyrcanus, his future was uncertain. Therefore, he became a
reluctant Seleucid ally. However, Hyrcanus used a clever stratagem
to defeat Antiochus when he claimed that Jews could not fight during
religious festivals.6 Rather than piety, it was Hyrcanus astute diplo-

Arrival of Tabernacles (Ant. 13.241); Date of the Pleiades (Pliny the Elder, Nat.
2.47.125; Ant. 13.237). It impossible to reconcile the regnal years with the references
of the Olympiad given by Josephus (Ant. 13.236). For detailed discussions of this issue,
and the historical sources, see further, Sievers 1990, 136; Schrer 1973, 1:20203 n. 5;
VanderKam 2004, 288.
Rajak 1981, 6581. Josephus, Ant. 13.26064; 14.24950. For additional evidence
that supports this thesis, see Kasher 1990, 11619; Schrer 1973, 1:2046; Sievers
1990, 13840. For the problems in reconciling Josephus different accounts of the
Hasmonean missions to Rome with Roman records, see further the sources cited in
Gruen 1984, 74851.
Several authors have noted that no such prohibition exists in the Bible or rabbinic
literature. Sievers 1990, 1356; VanderKam 2004, 288; Werner 1877, 25. Josephus and
other writers mention a number of incidents when Gentiles used the Jewish restriction against fighting on the Sabbath to their military advantage. See, for example, Ant.
12.46; 13.14, 252, 337; 18.31419, 32224, 354; 1 Macc. 2:2937, 41; 2 Macc. 5:2426,
6:11; Jub. 50:12. Cf. Frontinus, Strategemata, 2.1.17. For this issue, see further the
evidence cited in Johns, 1963: 48286; Weiss 1998: 36390. By the time of the Maccabean period, Jews regularly fought on the Sabbath. Mattathias decree permitting Sabbath fighting is recorded in 1 Macc. 2:41. Moreover, there is some evidence that the
Pharisees, as a result of the Maccabean crisis, came to accept fighting on the Sabbath
whereas the Sadducees did not. See further, Regev 1997, 27689. Given this evidence,
Hyrcanus reluctance to fight on the Sabbath mayin addition to serving as a ruse to
avoid fighting and undermine Antiochushave been based on Sadducean halakah.
For evidence that Sadducean halakah was more stringent than Pharisaic interpretation
of the Law, see Sussmann 1994, 179200.

separating fact from fiction


macy and clevernessas well as good luck, or perhaps we should say

fortunathat saved Judea.
The Antiquities and War differ as to when Hyrcanus began his wars
of expansion. In the War they occurred while Antiochus fought the
Parthians (War 1.623) whereas in the Antiquities they began after
the death of Antiochus (Ant. 13.273). The archaeological evidence suggests another scenario. There is a gap in the numismatic and occupational records for a variety of cities beginning from 112/111 bce
onward. These include such strategic sites as Marisa, Beer Sheba,
Mount Gerizim, Schechem, as well as Samaria. The destruction layers,
and occupational gaps, from these and other cities appear to correlate
with Josephus lists of Hyrcanus conquests.7 This evidence indicates
that Hyrcanus had actually postponed his wars of expansion until after
the Seleucid civil wars, a period of approximately twenty-three years
after he had taken the throne. Rather than the formidable warrior of
Josephus Antiquities who openly defied and challenged the might of
the Seleucid Empire, Hyrcanus waited until the Seleucid threat had
vanished before he began his wars of conquest.

III. Judah Aristobulus

1. Fiction
Josephus account of Judah Aristobulus is relatively short and contains little historical information.8 Consequently, I will make only a
few brief comments on his reign. Upon succeeding his father, Judah
proclaimed himself king and high priest, imprisoned his brothers
with the exception of Antigonusand killed his mother. His reign
quickly disintegrated due to rumors spread by unscrupulous men
who plotted against him and Antigonus (Ant. 13.305; War 1.74). In his
Antiquities, Josephus partially revised his earlier account to heighten
the tragedy of Judahs brief reign. In this book, Judah was tricked by
a group of conspirators, including his wife, into killing Antigonus. In

Barag 19921993: 112. See further, Hengel 1974, 1: 62, 2: 445 n. 32; Sievers
1990, 14144; Schwartz 2001, 368.
War 1.7084; Ant. 13.30119.


kenneth atkinson

both books, Josephus wrote that Judahs physical and mental health
quickly decayed before his death.
2. Fact
The only historical information pertaining to Judahs reign is a small
tribute in the Antiquities, citing the testimony of Strabo (via Timagenes), that Judah had campaigned against the Ituraeans (Ant.
13.31819) and had forced them to be circumcised and live in accordance with Jewish law. However, Josephus also mentioned an unspecified victorious campaign that had been undertaken by Antigonus (Ant.
13.304, War 1.73). Given Judahs illness, which may have lasted for
much of his reign, it is very likely that Antigonus actually commanded
the Iturean campaign.9 If so, then there was likely some truth to the
rumors that Antigonus planned to take power since he controlled the
army during his brothers prolonged illness. By highlighting Judah
Aristobulus murder of his brother Antigonus, Josephus account also
enhances John Hyrcanus reputation. God, after all, had warned Hyrcanus that Jannaeus, and not Judah or Antigonus, would be his true
heir (Ant. 13.322). Given this prophecy, Judahs reign could have only
ended in tragedy regardless of his character.

IV. Alexander Jannaeus

1. Fiction
Josephus presents a rather schematic portrayal of Alexander Jannaeus
deeds that is highly misleading.10 He grouped Jannaeus foreign campaigns into six major sections. Josephus interspersed between these
wars accounts of two invasionsone by the Egyptian Lathyrus the
other by the Seleucid Dionysiusand two reports of civil wars between
the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. In addition, Jannaeus faced two inter9
For the difficulties in unraveling Josephus chronology, as well as his use of
sources for Judahs reign, see further Kasher 1990, 1323; VanderKam 2004, 315. It
is uncertain whether Josephus refers to two campaigns or a single expedition against
the Itureans that was led by Antigonus. The resolution of this issue does not affect the
substance of Josephus narrative, which clearly states that Antigonus was in command
of the army during his brothers illness.
Varneda 1986, 13539. War 1.85106; Ant. 13.320406.

separating fact from fiction


nal revolts.11 At the conclusion of all these blocks of material, Jannaeus

somehow emerged the better since he had survived and went on to
fight additional wars of expansion and annexed new territories to his
realm. Despite his numerous setbacks, Josephus consistently portrayed
Jannaeus as a formidable warrior, who completed his fathers wars of
Josephus presented Jannaeus reign as a tragedy. Like his brother
Judah Aristobulus, Jannaeus was a violent and unstable man. However,
Josephus partially exonerated him for his faults. He implied that many
of his cruel actions were understandable given his difficult circumstances.12 By explaining away Jananeus shortcomings, and highlighting his military conquests, Josephus account also praises Hyrcanus.
According to Josephus, God had told Hyrcanus of his unborn son Jannaeus successes (Ant. 13.322). By completing Hyrcanus expansion of
Judea, Jannaeus military successes confirmed both his fathers greatness and prophetic gifts
2. Fact
Archaeological evidence and textual sources from Jannaeus reign call
into question Josephus narrative. This is especially true for the War
of Scepters (103101 bce)a conflict for which Josephus supplied
no absolute dates.13 According to his narrative, Jannaeus attack upon
Ptolemais essentially precipitated this international conflict. The inhabitants of this city called upon Ptolemy Lathyrus (Ptolemy IX Soter II) in
Cyprus for help. After losing in battle against Lathyrus, Jannaeus sued
for peace. At the same time, he secretly contacted Lathyrus mother
Cleopatra III and asked that she provide him with military assistance.
Once Lathyrus learned of Jannaeus treachery, he attacked Judea.
Cleopatra then sent her other son Ptolemy Alexander (Ptolemy X

Both books follow this basic sequence, although only the Antiquities contains
detailed accounts of the two invasions. Antiquities: Campaign (Ant. 13.32429); Invasion of Lathyrus (Ant. 13.33055); Seleucid Civil Wars (Ant. 13.36571); Revolt (Ant.
13.37273); Campaign (Ant. 13.37478); Revolt (Ant. 13.37983); Seleucid Civil Wars
(Ant. 13.38486); Invasion of Dionysus and Aretas (Ant. 13.38792); Campaign (Ant.
13.393404). War: Invasion of Lathyrus (War 1.86); Campaign (War 1.87); Revolt (War
1.88); Campaign (War 1.8990); Revolt (War 1.9198); Campaign (War 1.99106).
Mason 1991, 2478.
The name of this conflict is taken from line 12 of the Cairo INV. 9205 (Vant
Dack, et al., 1989, 845), which reads: when a war of scepters came to Syria.


kenneth atkinson

Alexander I) with a fleet to Phoenicia while she traveled by land to

Ptolemais.14 After capturing the city, her forces chased Lathyrus to Gaza
where he wintered before he returned to Cyprus (Ant. 13.34851).
Egyptian records suggest that Josephus has greatly simplified the
events of this conflict to enhance Jananeus role. Jannaeus attack upon
Ptolemais took place at the latest in the early spring of 103 bce. An
Egyptian papyrus from Pathyris, south of Thebes, dated to June 29
of that year indicates that Cleopatra III had already mobilized troops
and moved them from their usual garrisons.15 This action was undertaken in reaction to Lathyrus intervention. Presumably, Lathyrus
had arrived at Ptolemais by this date and had forced Jannaeus to end
his siege. According to Josephus, Jannaeus had feigned overtures of
peace with Lathyrus while he was engaged in secret negotiations with
Cleopatra III. Upon learning of this betrayal, Lathyrus besieged Ptolemais. He then left his generals behind in charge of this campaign and
defeated Jannaeus army at Asophon/Asaphon. Lathyrus then proceeded to ravage Galilee (Ant. 13.33646).
Josephus chronology is rather imprecise. He stated that Lathyrus attacked Ptolemais before he pursued Jannaeus, but he does not
describe the actual siege (Ant. 13.32437). Fortunately, Egyptian evidence allows us to refine Josephus chronology for this period. The
autobiographical inscription of the Egyptian general Petimuthes
mentioned that Cleopatra captured Ptolemais, which confirms Josephus account that she took this city (Ant. 13.34851).16 However,
a letter written in Ptolemais before its capture, dated September 27,
103 bce, mentions that Cleopatras son Ptolemy Alexander had left
Damascusan event not recorded by Josephusand had stationed a
company of men there.17 A demotic Serapeum stele from Memphis
places Ptolemy Alexander and his army at Pelusium in either Feb-


There is some confusion as to the numbering of the Ptolemaic rulers, especially

Ptolemy VII Euergetes as Ptolemy VIII Euergetes. For this issue, see further the numbering and discussions in Hlbl 2001, 20413; Sievers 2005, 345 n. 6; Whitehorne
1994, 10348, 2039. See also, Samuel 1962, 14755.
P. Grenf. I 30 + P. Amh. II 39 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 3949). All papyri and
inscriptions cited in this article are from this critical edition. For the events of this
Ptolemaic civil war that involved Jannaeus, see further Hlbl 2001, 20115.
Turin, Museo Egizio cat. 3062 + Karnak, Karakol n 258 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989,
88108). Josephus does not explicitly state, but strongly implies, that Lathyrus had
previously captured Ptolemais (Ant. 3367). See further Schrer 1979, 2:124.
P. dem. BM inv. 69008 + P. dem. Berl. Inv. 13381 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989,

separating fact from fiction


ruary or June of 102 bce18 Ptolemy Alexander must have traveled

to Pelusium to prevent Lathyrus, who was then wintering in nearby
Gaza, from invading Egypt (Ant. 13.348). However, the dates of the
Egyptian correspondence indicate that Ptolemaic troops were still at
Ptolemais on September 25, 102 bce, long after Lathyrus had returned
to Cyprus.19
The Egyptian evidence shows that Josephus has omitted many details
concerning the early events of Jannaeus reign to enhance his military
reputation and to conceal his weaknesses. Josephus merely recorded
that Cleopatra sent her son Ptolemy Alexander to Phoenicia. However, the Egyptian evidence shows that she had sent him to Damascus
for reasons that are not specified in the extant documentation. It is
likely that Cleopatra sent Ptolemy Alexander to help Antiochus VIII
Grypus take the city from Antiochus IX Cyzicenus.20 Although the
exact reason for Ptolemy Alexanders trip is uncertain, there is good
circumstantial evidence that his mother sent him there as part of a
planned annexation of Seleucia and Judea. It is clear that if Cleopatra
had captured Damascus and Ptolemais, as well as southern Phoenicia,
she would have controlled most of Coele-Syria. With this geographical base, she would have been in the perfect position to annex Judea
and incorporate much of the Middle East into the Ptolemaic Empire.
From the Egyptian evidence, we know that Ptolemy Alexander traveled from Damascus to Gaza in pursuit of Lathyrus, which means that
he had transited through Jananeus territory. This fact unmentioned
by Josephus, shows that Jannaeus was merely a minor player in the
events of this time. He had no recourse but to try to pacify the Egyptians in the hope that they would not annex Judea or continue to fight

Serapeum Stele, Louvre, INV. 3709 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 834). The reading
of the month is uncertain.
P. Grenf. I 35 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 7577). Another document suggests that
demobilization of Egyptian troops had not been completed by January 13, 101 bce.
See P. Gr. Louvre inv. 10593 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 7781). Lathyrus spent the
winter of 103/2 bce in Gaza and then returned to Cyprus. Hlbl 2001, 209.
Lathyrus had aided Cyzicenus in his battle against John Hyrcanus over Samaria.
He did so despite the objections of his mother Cleopatra III (Ant. 13.278). Grypus was
an ally of Ptolemy Alexander (Justin, 39.4.4; text in Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 1518,
279). The coin evidence from Damascus shows that it constantly changed hands
between Cyzicenus and Grypus. For this reason, it is difficult to determine exactly
which leader controlled the city at this time. For evidence in support of the following historical reconstruction, see further Hlbl 2001, 2079; Vant Dack, et al., 1989,
12124; Whitehorne 1994, 13841.


kenneth atkinson

their dynastic wars on his land. It is likely that the War of Scepters
would have taken place regardless of whether Jannaeus had attacked
Josephus gives the Jews a major role in Cleopatras campaign against
her wayward son Lathyrus. However, the Egyptian records make it clear
that Ptolemy Alexander, not the Jewish general Chelkias, commanded
the Egyptian troops. Moreover, the autobiographical inscription of the
Egyptian general Petimuthes states that he was with Cleopatra when
she captured Ptolemais. The evidence shows that Cleopatras expedition was a major undertaking in which her son Ptolemy Alexander
and her highest-ranking Egyptian officers had participated. Jananeus
played no major role in this conflict.21 Cleopatra likely came not to
help Judea, but to annex Coele-Syria and likely Jananeus kingdom as
well. It is unlikely that Cleopatras Jewish generals had anything to do
with Judeas survival. Jannaeus most likely made a treaty with Cleopatra as a vassal in order to maintain his throne.
According to Josephus, after the conclusion of this conflict in 101
bce, Jannaeus immediately campaigned in Coele-Syria and beyond the
Jordan (Ant. 13.356). After Lathyrus departed Gaza for Cyprus, Jannaeus attacked and captured Gaza following a one-year siege (Ant.
13.35864). Because Lathyrus wintered in Gaza in either 103/102 bce
and returned to Cyprus shortly thereafter, according to Josephus
chronology Jannaeus siege took place at this time. However, Egyptian
documents for the next seven months, from April 17, 102 bce until
September 25, 102 bce, show that Cleopatra stationed forces along the
Judean border.22 The presence of Ptolemaic troops in Pelusium at such
a late date after the departure of Lathyrus suggests the Egyptians did
not trust Jannaeus. It is unlikely that Jannaeus would have attacked
Gaza when potentially hostile Egyptian forces were nearby. Based on
the Egyptian evidence, it is clear that Jannaeus did not attack Gaza
immediately following the conclusion of the War of Scepters.
Elsewhere in his Antiquities, Josephus provides another chronological reference that contradicts his placement of Jannaeus siege of
Gaza following the conclusion of the War of Scepters. In his narrative of Syrian civil wars, Josephus mentions that Jannaeus siege of


See further, Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 12436.

P. Grenf. Inv. 628 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 612); P. Grenf. I 35 (Vant Dack,
et al., 1989, 757); P. Grenf. I 32 (Vant Dack, et al., 1989, 615).

separating fact from fiction


Gaza coincided with the murder of Grypus in 96 bce. (Ant. 13.365).23

This is a more reasonable date for Jannaeus campaign against Gaza
since it is unlikely that he would have attacked the city earlier in 102
bce when Ptolemy Alexander had troops nearby. In light of Egyptian
documentation, it appears that Jannaeus, like his father Hyrcanus, was
a cautious leader who waited until after the superpowers of his day
had weakened themselves through civil war before he began his wars
of conquest.

V. Salome Alexandra
1. Fiction
Josephus account of Salome Alexandra is quite brief.24 He devoted as
much space to her nine-years in office as he did to the one-year rule
of Judah Aristobulus. He recorded four major events during Salome
Alexandras reign; three military campaigns and two attempted insurrections led by her son Aristobulus II.25 Only her first military expedition at Ragaba was successful. However, it was not her victory, but her
husbands. She merely followed Jananeus orders and kept his death a
secret until the fortress had been taken.
According to Josephus, Judea quickly fell apart once Salome Alexandra assumed power. She immediately faced an insurrection led by
her son Aristobulus II. After pacifying Aristobulus II, she sent him
to Damascus to oppose the strongman Ptolemy Mennaeus. According to Josephus, this expedition failed to accomplish anything noteworthy (Ant. 13.418; cf. War 1.115). About the same time, Tigranes
of Armenia invaded Syria and besieged Ptolemais. Salome Alexandra
approached him with gifts to convince him to abandon his plan to
invade Judea. Josephus implied that Judea was saved only through
luck. Just after he had captured Ptolemais, Tigranes learned that the

For a different reconstruction and understanding of this passage, see Kasher
1990, 14550. See also Schrer 1979, 2:101.
War 1.10719; Ant. 13.40732.
Antiquities: Capture of Ragaba (Ant. 13.405); attempted insurrection (Ant.
13.406418); campaign against Damascus (Ant. 13.418); campaign against Tigranes
(Ant. 13.41921); attempted insurrection (Ant. 13.42229). War: Insurrection (War
1.11014); campaign against Damascus (War 1.115); campaign against Tigranes (War
1.116); attempted insurrection (War 1.11719).


kenneth atkinson

Roman consul Lucullus had invaded his homeland. Consequently, he

had to abandon his newly acquired territories and return to Armenia.26 In her final days, Salome Alexandra faced a coup led by her son
Aristobulus II. Before her death, she appointed Hyrcanus II as her
successor, leaving him a kingdom in disarray.27 Shortly after she died,
Aristobulus removed his brother Hyrcanus from power. Hyrcanus
later rekindled their civil war. As a result of this conflict, the Romans
annexed Judea and ended Hasmonean rule only four years after Salome
Alexandras death.28
2. Fact
Josephus Antiquities follows the basic structure of the War. However,
he has largely restructured and expanded the Antiquities to emphasize
the instability of Salome Alexandras reign. Josephus accomplishes this
through the addition of several chronological phrases at key places
in his narrative to imply that her political troubles and military campaigns followed one another in rapid succession.29 In reality, these
events were separated by lengthy periods of time. In order to understand the extent to which Josephus has tarnished Salome Alexandras
memory, we must briefly look at two incidents that took place during her husbands reign. None of these are documented in Josephus
books. Both pertain to the Nabateans.
The invasion of Antiochus XII Dionysus is the perhaps the most
puzzling section of Josephus history of Jannaeus reign. Josephus
account is clearly selective and incomplete and does not adequately
explain Jannaeus Nabatean policy. According to his War Dionysus
attempted to transit Judea to invade the Nabatean Arabs. Jannaeus

Tigranes invaded Syria in 83 bce and expelled the Seleucid kings from northern
Syria and lowland Cilicia. For fourteen years (83 bce69 bce) he ruled the Seleucid
kingdom until he was defeated by the Roman general Lucullus for the final time in
68 bce. For Tigranes, and the events of this time, see further Sherwin-White 1994,
According to Josephus, Hyrcanus II reigned for three months (Ant. 15.180) after
his mothers death. However, it is likely that he actually governed as king for a short
time before Salome Alexandras death (War 1.120). For this possibility, see further
VanderKam 2004, 33739.
For these events in the Psalms of Solomon, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and classical
texts, see further Atkinson 2004, 11327.
not long afterward (Ant. 13.418); about this time (Ant. 13.419); some time
after this (Ant. 13.422).

separating fact from fiction


erected a fortified wall and trench to prevent him from reaching

Nabatea. Dionysus easily destroyed these fortifications, preceded
to Nabatea, and subsequently died in battle (War 1.99102). In the
Antiquities, Josephus situated these events against the backdrop of the
Seleucid civil war between Dionysus and his brother Philip. After Dionysus had captured Damascus from Philip, he had his encounter with
Jannaeus (Ant. 13.38791).30 In neither account does Josephus explain
Dionysus unusual circuitous route to the Judean coast rather than
directly towards Nabatea. Moreover, it is unclear why Jannaeus would
have prevented Dionysus from traveling to Nabatea. This is especially
perplexing since an engagement between these two enemies of Jannaeus would have only weakened them and helped to secure Judeas
safety. By risking a direct confrontation with Dionysus, Jannaeus put
his kingdom in jeopardy.
The Byzantine chronographer George Synkellos supplements Josephus account of this period with information that he obtained from
an unspecified source. He mentioned that Jannaeus had been victorious in a war that he had launched against Dionysus.31 Because Dionysus died during his campaign against the Nabateans, after he had
destroyed Jannaeus wall and fortifications, the conflict documented
by Synkellos must have preceded Josephus account. In light of this
earlier conflict, it is clear that the campaign of Dionysus recorded by
Josephus was actually against both Nabatea and Judea. The location
of Jannaeus wall at the southern coast of Judea shows that Dionysus
did not merely intend to transit Judea. Rather, he clearly meant to
annex its port cities as retribution for Jannaeus prior attack. Jannaeus
fortifications described by Josephus were designed not to keep Dionysus from reaching Nabatea, but to keep him from capturing Judeas
coastal region.
After the Nabateans killed Dionysus in battle, their king Aretas III
took control of Damascus around 85 bce32 For reasons unstated by
Josephus, the people of Damascus had encouraged the Nabateans to
invade and remove the Iturean Ptolemy Mennaeus from power. Like
Jannaeus, Ptolemy wanted to control the Mediterranean ports as well
as Seleucia and Nabatea. Shortly after Aretas had captured Damascus,


For this period and the last Seleucid rulers, see further Bevan 1902, 24768.
Dindorf 1829, 559.
Shatzman 1991, 1201; Schrer 1973, Appendix II, 5789.


kenneth atkinson

he used it as a base to invade Judea and defeated Jannaeus at Adida in

85 bce (Ant. 13.392; War 1.103). This invasion apparently coincided
with the internal Jewish revolt against Jannaeus reign that took more
than six years to suppress.33 Josephus tells us little about the aftermath
of Aretas invasion, other than that Jannaeus made a treaty with him.
Jannaeus then, according to Josephus account, engaged in two series
of wars, with a short interval between them, for the last six years of his
life (ca. 8276 bce). Josephus precedes his account of Jannaeus death
with an extensive list of his final conquests in Transjordan and the territories that he held in Syria, Idumaea, and Phoenicia (Ant. 13.39397;
War 1.1036).
Synkellos records additional information that helps to clarify the
events of Jannaeus final years. According to Synkellos, when Jannaeus had besieged Tyre, he was attacked by a combined force led by
the Nabateans and the Ituraeans.34 In his Antiquities, Josephus briefly
mentioned that Jannaeus had been forced to relinquish to Aretas territories and fortresses he had conquered in Moab and Galaaditis (Ant.
13.382). Although Josephus does not name these territories, if they are
identical with his list of the cities Jannaeus conquered in these regions,
then they were quite extensive. In light of this territorial loss, Jannaeus
likely his undertook his final military campaign against Ragaba, which
was completed by Salome Alexandra, as revenge against the Nabateans
for their previous attack upon him in Tyre and their annexation of his
The Nabateans mysteriously disappear from Josephus account during Salome Alexandras reign. It is clear from Josephus books that
Ptolemy Mennaeus had expelled the Nabateans from Damascus when
Salome Alexandra was in power. Her mysterious campaign to Damascus was likely undertaken to restore Aretas to power. The Qumran
text 4QHistorical Text D (4Q332), which mentions Salome Alexandra by name, may actually refer to this incident. The first line of this
text reads: [to] give him honor among the Arab[s ].36 Because this
calendar lists events in chronological order, the passage involving

This revolt likely began shortly after his defeat by the Nabatean ruler Obodas I
and spanned the years 9286 or 8983 bce. See further Kasher 1990, 15960; Shatzman 1991, 117, 121.
Dindorf 1829, 559.
See further, Shatzman 1991, 8992; Kasher 1990, 15360.
For support of this translation, see further Fitzmyer 2000, 283; Wise 1994, 206.

separating fact from fiction


the Arabs took place during Salome Alexandras reign before

Hyrcanus II rebelled against his brother, an act which is mentioned
in line 6. The first line of 4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) could possibly refer to Salome Alexandras campaign against Ptolemy Mennaeus,
who had somehow regained Damascus from Aretas (Ant. 13.418;
War 1.115). Salome Alexandra had apparently made a treaty with the
Nabatean Arabs and undertook this campaign to restore Aretas to the
throne of Damascus, which may actually be alluded to by Josephus
(Ant. 13.409).37 4QHistorical Text D likely reflects the events of this
time, when Salome Alexandra sent Aristobulus to restore Damascus
to her Nabatean ally, and may help to clarify some of the confusion in
Josephus accounts of the period. It is clear that Josephus deliberate
omission of important events has not only resulted in a rather bewildering historical sequence for Salome Alexandras reign, but actually
diminishes her accomplishments.38 An alliance between Salome Alexandra and the Nabateans may also explain the circumstances behind
Josephus puzzling story of her supplication before Tigranes.
Josephus juxtaposed Aristobulus campaign against Ptolemy Mennaeus in Damascus with Tigranes invasion of Seleucia (Ant. 13.4182;
War 1. 11516). By placing these events alongside one another without
any commentary as to why Salome Alexandra sent her son to Damascus, the reader is left to conclude that Tigranes unexpected appearance had frustrated her expansionist agenda. She supposedly had to
retreat from Damascus upon hearing of Tigranes arrival and then
approach him as a supplicant to save her kingdom. Aristobulus campaign is usually dated to 72 bce, which is the same year that Tigranes
invaded Seleucia. This date is largely based on the numismatic evidence from Damascus. Aretas minted coins there between 84 bce and
74 bce, which demonstrates that he held the city during this time.
Tigranes invaded Coele-Syria in 72/1 bce, and took Damascus and

Such an alliance between the Hasmoneans and the Nabateans at this time would
also explain the puzzling incident that took place after Salome Alexandras death when
Aretas fought alongside Hyrcanus II against Aristobulus II. Aretas was apparently
still bound by this treaty to lend military assistance to Salome Alexandras designated
successor, Hyrcanus II (Ant. 14.19; War 1.126). This military assistance provides
additional evidence for the existence of a treaty between the Hasmoneans and the
Nabateans, following the death of Alexander Jannaeus, that was not mentioned in
Josephus books.
For this issue, see further the discussion of Josephus portrayal of the Hasmoneans
and Salome Alexandra in Baltrusch 2001, 16379.


kenneth atkinson

minted coins there between 72/170/69 bce.39 Aristobulus campaign

to Damascus certainly preceded Tigranes advance, a time-line which
suggests that the Nabateans had possibly evacuated the city several
years earlier. Whether it was due to incursions from Ptolemy Mennaeus or the threat of an Armenian invasion is uncertain.
Is significant is that Aristobulus campaign to Damascus would have
taken place, based on the coin evidence, in 72 bce after Salome Alexandra had been in power for four years. Josephus implies that Tigranes
advance thwarted her effort to capture Damascus and compelled her
son Aristoublus to return home; a campaign that Josephus commented
accomplished nothing noteworthy (War 1.115; Ant. 13.418). However,
Salome Alexandra may have known of Tigranes invasion quite early
and sent Aristobulus to Damascus. This event would have potentially
threatened Tigranes as he moved towards Ptolemais. Salome Alexandra could have possibly attacked him on the coast, which would have
deprived him of an escape route. If these were her intentions, then this
campaign achieved its intended goal. By the time Salome approached
Tigranes, he likely realized that he had overextended his reach. He
was besieging Cleopatra Selene in Ptolemais and now faced a possible
threat from Salome Alexandra and her Nabatean allies.40 Moreover,
Josephus even mentioned that Salome Alexandra had increased the size
of her army during the previous four years, added a new contingent
of mercenaries, and forced the surrounding nations to make peace
and send her hostages (Ant. 13.409). With her vast armyaccording
to Josephus estimation more powerful than her husbandsSalome
Alexandra likely approached Tigranes as an equal and forced him to
make a treaty with her. By focusing upon her domestic troubles, Josephus narrative greatly obscures Salome Alexandras military and diplomatic skills and the fact that her reign was likely the most peaceful
and prosperous period of Hasmonean history.41

He likely held the city as early as 72/1 bce. For this numismatic evidence, see
further Shatzman 1991, 12223; Schrer 1973, 1:1345, 5645, 5789.
Tigranes captured Damascus in 69 bce and took Cleopatra Selene captive. She
was deported to Seleucia-on-the-Tigras and later executed. See further Strabo, Geographica 16.749; Bevan 1902, 266; Chahin 1987, 22541; Macurdy 1932, 1702; Whitehorne 1994, 16473.
Atkinson 2003: 3756. For Josephus possible reshaping of his sources to diminish Salome Alexandras achievements, see further Ilan 2006, 5660.

separating fact from fiction


VI. Historiography
Josephus was a skilled historian. He clearly used sources to write engaging accounts of the events of his own day and the past. Yet, he was not
a mere compiler, but an author who impressed his own personality
upon his works. Through alterations, additions, deletions, and omissions, Josephus created what may be termed crafted texts that often tell
us as much about the Hasmoneans as they do about Josephus.42
I believe that Josephus crafted his accounts of the Hasmonean
period in light of the First Jewish Revolt. Consequently, his books are
not mere descriptive reports, but largely reinterpretations of the past
in light of his social-location in Rome as a proud descendant of the
Hasmoneans whowhether a willing or a reluctant accomplice is still
a subject of intense debatehelped to destroy the independent state
his ancestors had created.43 Let me briefly summarize how Josephus
social location has influenced his accounts of the Hasmoneans I have
examined in this study.
John Hyrcanus
A look at Josephus social-location and his Life may offer some reasons as to why he has altered his chronology to magnify Hyrcanus
achievements. Josephus liked to point out his Hasmonean lineage and
his own gifts as a warrior, leader, priest, and prophet (War 3.3513;
Life, 19). He even named his first-born son Hyrcanus (Life, 5). Both
Josephus and John Hyrcanus were reluctant allies in foolish military
ventures against stronger foreign adversaries. Yet, God delivered both
men from the hands of their enemies. Like Hyrcanus, Josephus also
achieved great success at a young age and provoked the envy of less
gifted people. Both had to fend off malicious accusations and were
great warriors. For both men, the Pharisees and the masses caused
dissension. Hyrcanus had the foresight to see that this rabble would
eventually bring down the Hasmonean dynasty.44 Likewise, Josephus
Metaphor of crafted text from McLaren 1998, 45. For the importance of Josephus social location for understanding his works, see McLaren 2004, 90108. For
survey of scholarship on Josephus and his sources, see Mason 1991, 4553.
For this issue and trends in Josephus research, see further the discussions and
bibliography in Bilde 1998, esp. 123206.
For the influence of the Pharisees and the mobs in Josephus writings, see further
the discussions in Mason 1991, 21345; ibid., 2001, 6667; Thoma 1994, 1345.


kenneth atkinson

predicted that religious dissension and mob rule would bring about
the end of Judean independence. If the Judeans had listened to Hyrcanus, Hasmonean rule would have likely continued. Failing to learn
this lesson, the Judeans once again failed to heed a prophet in their
midst and listen to Josephus. In this instance, the result was catastrophic, for the Romans were forced to end Judean independence for
all time. Through a creative manipulation of the facts, Josephus presented both Hyrcanus and himself as tragic figures. Both were pious
priests, formidable warriors, and prophets who were misunderstood
by their own people.
Judah Aristobulus
Josephus portrayal of Judah Aristobulus serves as a warning. It shows
how rumors can bring down good men. Judah was basically a good
king whose reign was destroyed by his love for his brother and treachery. Such was also the true of Josephus, whoat least according to
his own testimony throughout his Lifewas also a good man who
faced treachery, rumors, and circumstances beyond his control. This
association may explain Josephus rather inappropriate eulogy in his
Antiquities on Aristobulus greatness. Josephus apparently felt a kinship with this with tragic figure and chose to add a short tribute to
him in his later book to counter his misfortunate portrayal of Judahs
reign.45 Although praising him, this tribute also serves to emphasize
the tragic elements of Judahs brief year in power. God had, after all,
forewarned Hyrcanus that Judah would never prove to be his equal
and that Alexander Jannaeus would become his true heir.
Alexander Jannaeus
Josephus highlights Jannaeus military conquests largely to emphasize
John Hyrcanus greatness. God had told Hyrcanus the prophet in a
dream that his unborn son Jannaeus would become heir of all his possessions. By expanding Judea, Jannaeus conquests testify to the magnitude of Hyrcanus prophetic gifts. However, Josephus has presented

Josephus partly revised his earlier account in his Antiquities to heighten the tragedy of the story by focusing upon how the conspirators, including his wife, had tricked
him into killing Antigonus. See further, Mason 1991, 2556. See also, Kasher 1990,

separating fact from fiction


his readers with a very select account of Jannaeus reign that often
glossed over his military failures that nearly brought about the end of
Judean independence. As for Jannaeus cruelty, Josephus commented
that we should not look too harshly upon him. His actions are somewhat justifiable in light of his terrible circumstances. Jannaeus merely
tried the best he could to hold his nation together through civil wars,
rumors, and foreign invasions. Once again, this description aptly fits
Josephus, who in equally trying circumstances did the best he could
to preserve his nation.
Salome Alexandra
Salome Alexandra is the ruler Josephus despised most of all. He
intended her reign to serve as a warning of the consequences that
ensue when men fail to fulfill their duties and assume power. She
allowed the Pharisees and the masses unprecedented control over state
affairs.46 Josephus Life testifies to the danger of such alliances and the
consequences of what happens when mobs rule and people are not led
by the appropriate leaders.47 By obscuring her military achievements,
Josephus largely blamed her for the tragic reigns of her sons as well as
the Roman conquest.
Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II
Salome Alexandras sons Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II are also tragic
figures. According to Josephus, Salome Alexandras misguided policies
doomed their reigns before they began. In his Antiquities, Josephus even
omitted his earlier praise of Salome Alexandra to state that her policies
had brought about the end of Hasmonean rule (Ant. 13.43032). Josephus clearly sided with Aristobulus and the leading citizens against
Salome Alexandra and her Pharisaic sponsors.48 In Josephus books,
the disastrous civil war between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus weakened
the nation and provided the Romans with an opportunity to easily

For this theme, see further Mason 1991, 82115, 24659. For other distortions
of Salome Alexandras reign in Josephus books in light of later rabbinic accounts, see
further Ilan 2006, 3560.
For this theme, as well as Josephus use of rhetoric to justify his own actions, see
further Josephus Life and the comments on these topics in Mason 2001, xiiilii.
Mason 1991, 25356.


kenneth atkinson

conquer Judea. This conflict mirrored the civil war of Josephus own
day, which likewise destroyed Judea and made it easy prey for Vespasians legions. Josephus intended his readers to reflect upon this
struggle, as well as the tumultuous events of the Hasmonean period,
and conclude that only people like Josephus were qualified to lead
the Jews.

VII. Conclusion
It is important to take into consideration Josephus social location
when reading his accounts of Hasmonean history. Rather than factual chronological historical narratives, Josephus War and Antiquities
are largely historically inspired works of fiction. We should exercise
extreme caution in using Josephus books to write a history of the
Hasmonean period. They tell us as much about the Judea of the first
century bce. as they do about the Judea of Josephus day.

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Historical Background and Social Setting. Leiden: Brill.
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Barag, Dan. 19921993. New Evidence on the Foreign Policy of John Hyrcanus I.
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Baltrusch, Ernst. 2001. Knigin Salome Alexandra (7667 v. chr.) und die Verfassung
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Mordechai Aviam

The most common approach to the study of the socio-economic structure in the Galilee at the time of Jesus and the First Jewish Revolt was
developed through the research of the New Testament and the works
of Josephus Flavius, and one can summarize the common picture as
wealthy cities and poor villages.1 According to the New Testament,
Jesus visited mainly the rural parts of Galilee and avoided the cities,
although in Matthew 4:25 people from the Decapolis appeal for help
from Jesus. Bethsaida is mentioned a few times as having been visited by Jesus, although it is unclear if Bethsaida was a city or a polis?
Hence, as a reflection of the narratives of the New Testament, the
common view of Galilee became the land of peasants.2 Outside of
the few references to the lands (the territories) of Caesarea Philippi
and the lands (the territories) of Tyre and Sidon Jesus did not visit
cities. He did not frequent Tiberias, Sepphoris, Hippos, Scythopolis or
Ptolemais. Were the Galilean villagers poor, or were the city men rich?
When one reads Josephus carefully, the scene looks slightly different.
The only time that the terms poor or destitute, regarding people
in the Galilee, are mentioned, is when Josephus is writing about the
political party of the sailors and destitute class in Tiberias (Life, 66).
Although no social identification was assigned to Simon and Andrew
or Zebedee and his sons (Matthew 4:18,21), it might be that sailors
and fishermen around the Sea of Galilee were at the bottom of the
social pyramid. On the other hand we have some references to rich
and wealthy homes in Galilean villages such as the statement about

As clearly reflected in the works of both scholars: Freyne 1980: 155208. Horsley
1995, 1996.
Horsley 1996.


mordechai aviam

Chabulon, He admired its beauty with its houses built in the style of
those at Tyre, Sidon and Berytus (War 2.504). Chabulon, or Kabul,
was a small village on the western outskirts of Galilee, and according to
Josephus it had wonderfully rich houses. The site is usually identified
with the modern Arab village of Kabul that has never been excavated
extensively. A second-third century ce tomb was excavated there with
stone and clay ossuaries. Another location that could be identified as
Chabulon was a site north of the Arab village at Kh. Beza.3 In another
case, Josephus speaks about the rich, fortified house of Jesus, a local
leader at Gabara (Life 246). If so, the impression from Josephus narrative is that more poor people lived in the cities than in the villages.

The Evidence from Yodefat and Gamla

The archaeological excavations at both first century northern towns
of Yodefat and Gamla, show that most of their inhabitants lived their
lives between levels of prosperity and simplicity, but not poverty. The
different types of finds do not suggest the existence of an impoverished
population, but rather a population of medium and high social ranks.
The houses that were uncovered, in both sites, but especially at Gamla,
are nicely built, some of which probably belonged to very rich families. There were some families who lived in luxurious mansions that
were decorated with frescoes and stucco. At Gamla, chunks of plaster with fresco and stucco were discovered for the most part in what
was called by the excavators as the wealthy quarter. In this area two
workshops were identified, the first is an oil press built inside a wellbuilt, arched roofed building, with a miqve cut into the northern rockwall.4 The second is a flour-mill with a few large grinding stones that
could produce a large quantity of flour. The proximity of these two
workshops to the private houses, of which some were decorated with
fresco and stucco, can hint that the owners of the workshops probably
lived nearby and that they were of a high socio-economical class. At
Yodefat an olive-press was discovered in a cave on the eastern-upper
slope very close to the private houses on the eastern edge of the town
in area XI. The easiest accessible way to the oil-press was from these


Aviam 2005: 15, 32.

Miqve is the halachically mandated ritual bath.

socio-economic hierarchy in first century galilee


houses. This proximity suggests that the owners of the olive-press lived
there. These houses are not as fancy as those at Gamla and neither
is the oil press itself. Nevertheless, each of these two houses has its
own miqve which not every house in the town had. Cutting, building
and plastering and maintaining a miqve with a special water proof
plaster was not a simple and cheap task. It is very common now to
associate miqvaot with food production, and especially with liquids
such as oil and wine that can easily absorb impurity. Immersing into
a miqve before and during the production process was the way to produce pure oil or wine that could be sold to different groups that kept
purity laws very strictly or even directly to the Temple in Jerusalem.
In contrast to the simple building in Area XI, the north-east quarter of
Yodefat was built in a much more delicate way. The houses were built
along three strong and solid terraces with wide walls, well-cut stones
and raised up to two or three stories high. The excavation in one of
the buildings yielded an unusual find. In one of the rooms beautifully
frescoed walls were discovered preserved to a height of 1.5 m. They
are in the masonry style of the Second Pompeian style, in red and
ochre tables separated by black, white and green stripes, and frames
of marble imitation. A bigger surprise was that the floor itself is decorated with frescoes of red and black pavers. This is a rare find that
was discovered in Israel only in the Herodian theaters orchestra at
Caesarea, and also at Leptis Magna in the 1st century ce orchestra.
Retrieved among the many pieces of frescoed plaster, were also some
nicely shaped pieces of stucco. According to Silvia Rosenberg of the
Israel Museum, they can be dated to the third quarter of the 1st century bcethe Herodian period. There is little doubt that mosaic floors
during this time as were found in the Herodian palaces and in the rich
mansions at the Western hill in Jerusalem in pre-70 ce, or in private
mansions at Caesarea and Dor, were even more expensive than frescoed floors; but fresco work was very expensive as well. The houses
and palaces with their fresco walls and mosaic floors represent the
highest class of the socio-economic pyramid. It is possible that rich
houses in both Galilean capitalsSepphoris and Tiberias, had similar
mansions. The house at Yodefat represents a lower class, compared
to Masada, Herodium, Jerusalem, and Caesarea, but is still very high
in the social stratification. As mentioned, only a small portion of the
mansion was excavated and one can believe that there is much more
information about this house in Yodefat, of the Galilee and on 1st
century life that is lying there under less than 2 m. of debris, waiting


mordechai aviam

to be uncovered. There are also two small finds that were discovered in
this wealthy quarter. The first is a multi-nozzle gray oil lamp which
is a unique find, and only a few were reported from archaeological
excavations. In the final report of Masada, discussing three nozzles of
this type found at the site, Barag and Hershkowitz suggest: it . . . seems
to be the only specimens of type XIII from a controlled excavation in
PalestineTrans-Jordan. This type is rather rare.5 The best parallels
are to be found in private collection. The oil lamp from Yodefat is
probably the most complete one of this type originating in a scientific
excavation, and was doubtless a luxurious artifact. The second find is
a fragment of a stone table, one of very few known in the Galilee. As
Gutman already suggested for Gamla, it seems as if these towns was
heavily sacked by the conquering Roman troops, as very few luxurious
artifacts were found in the debris. At Yodefat, a few small scale-plates
were found, probably used for measuring precious metals, powders or
perfumes, three gems, a few rings and worked bone fragments were
also found in different excavating fields, and very few silver coins. A
small hoard that included some bronze coins and seven tetradrachms
from the time of Emperor Nero, of which the latest is from the year
64 ce was found in the underground shelter under the western town
wall. This hoard is probably a small hint of the money that was in the
houses before they were sacked by the Romans. At Gamla, a hoard of
twenty Tyrian sheqels and seven tetradrachms from the time of Nero
were found in the street, and were probably lost by one of the refugees,
or by one of the Roman soldiers.
An important part of the reconstruction and understanding of the
social hierarchy within the Galilean Jewish communities is the research
and analysis of the economy of the Galilee in general, and of Yodefat
in particular.
The common view about the Galilean economy was based on
assumptions and some evidence from the texts, as well as on some
archaeological evidence from later periods. According to them all, olive
oil was the most important product of Galilee. Josephus story about
John of Gischala and his profiteering in olive oil probably indicates the
wealth of Galilee in olive oil (War 2.591592; Life 7475). The finds in
both surveys and excavations at Yodefat and Gamla yielded only 1 or 2
olive presses per town. This is not the magnitude of olive-presses that

Barag and Hershkovitz 1994: 2458.

socio-economic hierarchy in first century galilee


would enable the exporting of large amounts of oil from the region.
In his book Gutman ascribed part of the importance of Gamla to its
geographical position, and connected it with its olive oil production
and export.6 It should be admitted that the main problem in studying
the 1st century Galilean economy is the lack of actual evidence, i.e., the
small quantity of clean 1st century archaeological loci. In any case, the
finds from Yodefat and Gamla impel us to prune down our confidence
in the importance and role of olive oil production in Galilee, at least
in the Lower Galilean economy. The situation in Upper Galilee might
be different, based on the story about John of Gischala. The only complete oil-press found at Yodefat is the one in the cave, it has only one
squeezing installation in contrast to the one at Gamla and Mishmar
HaEmeq that each used two, thereby yielding twice the production
at any given time. Oil production was an important product in the
Galilean economy, it was a highly profitable product, though not as
important as was thought before by researchers.7
We should look at other archaeological evidence to learn what the
main means of production of the Galileans were. Doubtless, archaeology will not be able to reveal all the means of production because
some of them do not leave any archaeological trace, nevertheless some
do. As part of the study of Yodefats economy, I conducted a ground
survey of the entire possible agricultural territory of the town, directed
to locating and identifying agricultural remains. One of the surprising
results was finding only 2 wine presses, (while in other areas in the
Galilee there are hundreds)8 one of those was dated according to its
plaster to the Byzantine period. It does make sense that the inhabitants
of Yodefat grew grapes and produced wine, but according to the surface find it was a very marginal product. The entire potential agricultural territory of Yodefat is about 15 sq. km. of which about 40% was
probably cultivated and terraced for farming. The rest, mostly stony
and rocky soil, was mainly grazing land. More than 25 cisterns were

Gutman 1994.
We should try and learn from Judea as well. Three or Four First Century ce sites
were recently excavated in Judea: Qiryat Sepher, Kh. Etri, Modiin, and Kh. Burnat
and in each one of them not more than 12 olive presses were found. This situation
is completely different from what we know about sites from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods in Galilee, Golan, Samaria and Judea (Frankel 1999, Ben David 1998,
Aviam 2004: 170180).
Frankel 1999, Frankel and Gezov 1997, Aviam 2004, 17080, Aviam and Shalem


mordechai aviam

identified in the surveyed area (not including the cisterns in the town)
which is much higher percentage of cisterns for an area this size than
is found in any other surveyed and published Galilean region.9
This information was combined with the ostiological evidence from
the dig, which was analyzed by Carol Cope. According to her report,
out of the 3075 identified animal bones, 80% belonged to cattle, sheep
and goats, 6.8% to chickens, 2.9% to partridges, 2% to pigs (most of
which were found in the Hellenistic levels), and the rest to various
other animals. Of the 80%, 48% belonged to sheep and goats and from
the bones that can be distinguished between goats and sheep, 80.4%
belonged to sheep, a much higher percentage than in the regular breakdown of ostiological finds from the Hellenistic to Byzantine periods, in
which the percentage of goats is little higher. All sheep bones belong
to adult animals, which indicates that they were not grown mainly for
meat, but rather for wool and milk. It is likely that this conclusion
matches the evidence from the land survey around the town which
suggested that about half of the land was unsuitable for farming, and
thus was used for grazing. The more than 25 cisterns that were found
in the area probably to supplied the drinking water for the herds.
In addition, during the dig more than 250 kiln-fired, clay loomweights were retrieved, the highest number ever found in Early-Roman
period Palestine (only at Marisa is the number larger, but most of those
were not fired and are dated to the Hellenistic period). At Gamla, where
the excavated area is twice as large, only about 60 loom weights were
found. Taking all these in consideration, it is suggested that grazing
sheep and goats, and especially sheep, was one of the most important
economic underpinnings of the inhabitants of Yodefat, while weaving
wool fabrics was one of their main export products.
Surprisingly, at the southern margin of the town, we discovered
four pottery kilns. It seems as if this part of the town was mostly occupied by potters workshops and can be named the potters quarter.
According to the wasters collected around the kilns, the Yodefat potters produced cooking pots of the same type as Adan-Bayewitz suggested we call Kfar Hananya Ware.10 They look the same, and their
color is the same, yet they differ from the Golan Ware identified by

Hanita map: Frankel and Gezov 1997 and Amqa map: Frankel and Gezov forthcoming.
Adan-Bayewitz 1993.

socio-economic hierarchy in first century galilee


Adan-Bayewitz, as similar in shape to Kfar Hananya ware, however

different in clay composition and color. Without chemical analysis it
is impossible to determine whether the Yodefat cooking pots are local
production or an import from Kfar Hananya, or perhaps from another
Galilean village that produced the same type of vessels. However, the
existence of wasters prove that at least those were locally made.
The Yodefat potters also produced a type of storage jar which is well
attested in First Century ce Galilean sites,11 and although we identified
this production center at Yodefat, there is no reason to name them
Yodefat jars. Names should be given according to the shape of the
vessels rather than the place of production, as identical types of pottery were produced in different places. To identify that type of jar it
is preferable to use the term ribbed-neck jar. The local potters also
produced other vessels such as bowls, stands, and probably the loom
weights. This is the first time that a pottery production center was
identified on a top of a high hill, away from the source of raw material. All other kilns identified in the Galilee, from different periods, are
located near the valleys.
It is well known in the study of the pottery industry that pottery production is one of the solutions for groups of people who suffer from
a lack of farm land. This was also the situation at Yodefat. Together
with evidence of wool weaving it seems that in a creative way, Jews in
mountainous Galilee adapted themselves to the geographical conditions of rocky terrain and lack of arable land. As their agricultural land
was poor, they developed wool and textile industry along with pottery
production. It is clear that the potters of Yodefat had an advantage
over those of Kfar Hananya because they were much closer to the
main markets at Sepphoris.
Finally, the bones of dozens of human beings, men, women and
children were found at Yodefat, gathered and buried in cisterns and
caves, and buried under the collapse of houses and fill. There is no
chance of a mistake in dating them to the First Century ce, as the
latest finds in the fill belong to this period. Some of the bones carry
marks of violence that prove that they were all the victims of the war.
According to the study of these bones they could represent more than
2500 human beings and maybe more, slaughtered in the 67 ce war.
Among the victims were citizens of the town and refugees from nearby


Fernandez 1983: 187.


mordechai aviam

villages. Therefore, this large collection of human remains represents

a population not only from one town, but also from a larger area in
Lower Western Galilee. If this is so, it provides us with a larger view
of the health and economic conditions in the mid-First Century ce
Galilee. Anthropological research12 proved that they were all in good
health, fed under conditions of normal nutrition, did not suffer from
any starvation or malnutrition; they were in an environment of
normal sanitation and did not suffer from any severe diseases before
they died.

All this evidence shows that the socio-economical hierarchy in 1st
century Galilee was not as simple as poor peasants and wealthy
townsmen as is usually discussed. There was social hierarchy in cities, towns and villages. From the beginning of their settlement in the
Galilee during the Hasmonaean reign, the Galileans developed their
economy cleverly and wisely, adopting every chance that the land
and environment could offer. Under the Hasmoneans, the economic
foundations were built.13 Under Antipas, the Galilee grew rapidly
after years of neglect in the reign of Herod the Great. Evidence for
this can be seen at Yodefat which grew from a small, fortified village/
stronghold on the top of the hill, to become a prosperous town on the
Eastern and Southern slopes, and on the Southern plateau as well. A
similar development was followed at Gamla. The Hasmonaean village/
stronghold was built on the North-Eastern corner of the hill and was
abandoned during part of the end of the first century bce, maybe as
a result of the Herodian campaign in 38 bce. From the end of that
century to the time of its destruction the town grew very fast under
Phillip, Herods son.
According to finds from Gamla and Yodefat, the character of the
houses, frescoes and stucco, luxurious pottery and small finds, different means of production and human remains, it is possible to attempt
to reconstruct part of the socio-economic strata.


The study was conducted differently by V. Eshed and C. Cope.

Aviam 2004: 4158.

socio-economic hierarchy in first century galilee


At the bottom, one can find, as was suggested by Freyne,14 who did
not base his view on any archaeological remains, the day-workers,
shepherds and beggars. Other groups in the lower classes were potters, spinners, weavers and probably simple farmers who worked for
others or had only small plots of land, if any land at all. From different studies we do know that pottery production was not considered a
source of great wealth (Arnold 1985). Above them there were the owners of the small industries or workshops: olive oil and flour producers, blacksmiths, carpenters and others. The olive oil was, as today, an
expensive product, but as the hard work of picking and pressing lasts
only about two to three months a year, it is possible that these families
took part in the wool production as well. It seems as if the wool craft
was widely spread at Yodefat and probably in other Galilean mountainou, towns, and could have been not only a source of income by
itself, but also supported other kinds of economic activities. At the top
of the pyramid, there were probably the merchants, important dealers in produce, oligarchic families, tax collectors, and high officials as
reflected by the rich mansion at Yodefat and the story of Phillip son
of Jacimus, a high officer in Agrippas army who lived, or part of his
family lived at Gamla (War 4.8182; Life 46, 179).
The results of modern, scientific excavations at Gamla and Yodefat offer the first opportunity to discuss some of the most important
socio-economic questions of 1st century Galilee from the ground up.
The historical evidence by itself from Josephus and the New Testament
are not sufficient, they should be clarified and supported by archaeological finds.

Adan-Bayewitz, D. 1993. Common Pottery in Roman Galilee. Jerusalem: Bar Ilan University Press.
Arnold, D. E. 1985. Ceramic Theory and Cultural Process. Cambridge.
Aviam, M. 2004. Jews, Pagans and Christians in the Galilee. Rochester: University of
Rochester Press.
2005. Yodefat, a Case Study in the Development of the Jewish Settlement in the
Galilee during the Second temple Period. Ph. D. Dissertation. Bar Ilan: University


Freyne 1980: 194200.


mordechai aviam

Aviam, M. and Shalem, D. Forthcoming. The Land of Lost Towns. Archaeological Survey of the Shomera. Map to be announced.
Barag, D. and Hershkovitz, M. 1994. Lamps from Masada. Pages 178. In: Masada IV.
Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Society.
Ben David, H. 1998. Oil Presses and Oil Production in the Golan in the Mishnaic and
Talmudic Periods. Atiqot 34:161. (Hebrew).
Diez Fernandez. 1983. Ceramica Comun Romana de la Galilea. Jerusalem-Madrid: NP.
Frankel, R. 1999. Wine and Oil Production in Antiquity in Israel and Other Mediterranean Countries. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Frankel, R. and Getzov, N. 1997. Archaeological Survey of Israel. Map of Akhziv (1).
Map of Hanita (2). Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.
. Forthcoming. Archaeological Survey of Israel. Map of Amqa. Jerusalem: Israel
Antiquities Authority.
Freyne, S. 1980. The Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian. Notre Dame: University of Notre dame Press.
Gutman, S. 1994. Gamla, a City in Rebellion. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Press
Horsley, Richard A. 1995. Galilee, History, Politics, people. Valley Forge: Trinity Press.
1996. Archaeology, History and Society in Galilee. Valley Forge: Trinity Press.


Christophe Batsch

Dans la Bible hbraque, le code sacerdotal dbute par un long expos

des lois et des normes rglementant la pratique des sacrifices (Lev 17),
et nombre de prescriptions supplmentaires relatives aux sacrifices
figurent encore dans dautres passages du Lvitique. La diversit, le
grand nombre et la varit de ces sacrifices accomplir au Temple de
Jrusalem sont impressionnants. Cependant, en dpit de sa longueur
et de son caractre dtaill, cette liste ne constitue pas un systme :
on est certes en prsence dune classification, mais dune classification qui en demeure au stade de lnumration, de la juxtaposition
de cas, et qui ne cherche pas dgager les principes dun classement
Naturellement, au sein de cette longue numration, certains sacrifices prcis sont plus spcialement assigns telle ou telle date du calendrier rituel : le calendrier, dans ce cas, exprime bien un systme, des
ftes et des crmonies calendaires, prenant en compte la succession
cyclique des jours, des semaines et des saisons. En revanche il est
peu prs impossible de dgager un systme analogue, sagissant de la
dfinition et de la pratique des sacrifices en dehors des ftes religieuses. Il faut ladmettre : le Lvitique ntablit pas de systme sacrificiel ;
il se borne lnumration, dtaille sinon exhaustive, des occasions
requrants tel ou tel type de sacrifice. Au demeurant si un tel systme
dissimulait sa structure au sein de cette numration, personne encore
na su le mettre jour : on ne trouvera pas, chez les meilleurs spcialistes contemporains de la Bible hbraque, deux dcomptes identiques
du nombre de sacrifices accomplis au Temple de Jrusalem. Les uns
identifient quatre, les autres six, huit, neuf catgories de sacrifices, ou
plus encore, dans le judasme ancien.

De la mme faon que le code dHammourabi rassemble une liste de cas faisant
jurisprudence mais ne constitue pas un code de lois. Vid. Bottro 1987, 191223.


christophe batsch

Un lment du problme rside dans le vocabulaire biblique du

sacrifice, qui nexprime pas des catgories homognes. Ainsi, dans la
liste publie en annexe de cet article, certains termes incluent plusieurs
types de sacrifices : par exemple le mot ( qorban, traduit en grec
par ) dsigne lensemble des offrandes sacrificielles, sanglantes
et/ou vgtales ; cest un terme gnrique recouvrant lensemble des
sacrifices juifs. De mme la plupart des termes dsignant une catgorie de sacrifice, en dfinissant un mode rituel particulier doffrande,
recouvrent en fait une grande diversit des pratiques sacrificielles dont
chacune correspond des circonstances prcises. Cest par exemple le
cas des mots ( hattat, offert en expiation dune erreur),
( holocaustes, offrandes enti(minhah, offrande vgtale) ou des
rement consumes sur lautel). Figure par exemple en Lev 4:1321 la
description prcise dun hattat offrir en cas de faute ou de pch collectif. Lexemple est intressant car illustr : cest le sacrifice que Judas
Maccabe envoie accomplir Jrusalem, lorsquil dcouvre quune
partie de ses troupes sest souille en pillant un temple paen Jamnia
(2 Mac 12:3945).3
Les auteurs juifs de la fin de lpoque du deuxime Temple, lorsquils
voulaient traiter des sacrifices, avaient donc le choix entre deux solutions. La premire consistait suivre, plus ou moins servilement, le
modle numratif propos par le code sacerdotal ; cest peu prs ce
que fait Philon dans son grand commentaire sur les sacrifices au livre
I du De specialibus legibus.4 La seconde exigeait une nouvelle opration
classificatoire, consistant dfinir des critres susceptibles, la fois, de
prendre en compte la diversit des sacrifices du Lvitique, et de nen
laisser aucun lcart. Cest, me semble-t-il, ce quoi Josphe sest
efforc de parvenir avec un certain succs.

Sur le vocabulaire hbreu et grec des sacrifices juifs, vid. Dorival 2005, 30915.
Ma liste du vocabulaire des sacrifices reprend en grande partie son tableau de la
p. 311.
Cet pisode mriterait un long dveloppement sur la thorie de la contamination
dune communaut par la faute de quelques-uns de ses membres, mais ce nest pas
ici le lieu.
Quoique Philon tablisse en Spec. I 168 une distinction a minima entre les sacrifices pour les ftes calendaires et les sacrifices offerts selon les circonstances.

le systme sacrificiel de flavius josphe


Comptence de Josphe en matire de sacrifices

On sait que Josphe avait projet la rdaction dun ouvrage sur le
judasme en quatre livres, intitul Des coutumes et des causes (
, Ant. 4.198), auquel il semble avoir finalement
renonc ; cet ouvrage aurait contenu des sections plus particulirement consacres aux rites sacrificiels ( , Ant. 3.205) et aux
lois juives ( , Ant. 3.223). Il se trouve que ces deux sections sont mentionnes par Josphe au dbut de sa notice du livre III
sur les sacrifices, et chaque fois pour souligner quil compte remettre
plus tard son expos sur les sacrifices juifs alors prcisment que
cet expos figure cet endroit.5 Cette contradiction (inter al.) a depuis
longtemps conduit les spcialistes du texte juger que Josphe avait
dlibrment intgr un matriau, dans un premier temps destin
louvrage annonc, dans la rdaction finale de ses Antiquits : le long
passage consacr aux sacrifices en Ant. 3.224286 apparaissant comme
lexemple type de ces expansions ditoriales.6
Cela signifie que cette notice sacrificielle est le produit dune longue
rflexion de Josphe. Il faut y insister pour rfuter nouveau labsurde
thorie dune suppose incomptence de Josphe, en matire rituelle
et halakhique, laquelle a pu se rpandre durant lentre-deux-guerres.7
Josphe avait une parfaite connaissance des lois rituelles du judasme,
non seulement en raison de son ducation sacerdotale mais parce quil
y avait prt une particulire attention en vue de la rdaction de ses
ouvrages parus ou rests indits.
La comptence de Josphe continue pourtant dtre mise en cause,
aujourdhui encore, ds quon en vient la question des sacrifices.
Dune certaine faon, cest mme ce malaise des diteurs et traducteurs
contemporains les plus minents, devant les catgories et les dfinitions sacrificielles de Josphe, qui attire lattention sur ce passage. En
particulier lorsque Josphe distingue entre diffrentes catgories de
sacrifices, par exemple en Ant. 3.230 :

Ant. 3.205 : Je vais parler de ces crmonies religieuses quand jen serai aux sacrifices du rituel : jy indiquerai alors les victimes que la Loi ordonne de brler entirement et celles dont elle permet de prlever de quoi manger. Ant. 3.223 : Mais
je marrte l, car jai dcid de composer un trait spcial au sujet des lois. (trad.
Nodet 1992).
Voir en dernier lieu lanalyse de Altshuler 1979, 22632.
Vid. Tomson 2002, 189220.


christophe batsch

. On sacrifie aussi pour les pchs et les crmonies
(hirurgies) qui se droulent dans des formes (tropes) identiques
ce que jai mentionn au sujet des sacrifices daction de grce (charistres). Julien Weill, dans la grande traduction Reinach, observait
ainsi que Josphe, dans sa brve notice, mlange beaucoup de textes
du Lvitique. Et il concluait sur lensemble de la notice sacrificielle :
Josphe est ici trop bref pour tre exact.8 Plus rcemment tienne
Nodet a parl galement de lexpos trs sommaire de Josphe, en
ajoutant que la distinction du Lvitique entre les deux types de sacrifices pour le pch ne lui paraissait pas claire.9 Louis Feldman enfin,
dans sa grande traduction commente, inflige une sorte de leon de
rite Josphe : Despite Josephus statement that these two types of
sacrifice are performed in a similar manner, the only feature in common
between thank-offerings and sin-offerings is the burning of fats upon
the altar.10 Le commentaire souligne ensuite, dans une longue note,
toutes les diffrences quil aurait fallu noter entre les deux rites. Ces
interrogations sont fondes : car Josphe semble bien confondre en
une seule catgorie, deux types de sacrifices juifs aux rites parfaitement

, zebah todah ou sacrifice dactions de grce,

distincts : le
et les deux formes de sacrifices pour le pch, , hattat et
asham. Lerreur serait en effet grossire mais je ne crois pas que Josphe la commette ici.
Que dsignent en effet ces termes de trope, hirurgie et charistre
(, et ), dont lemploi par Josphe soulve tant de difficults ? Leur bonne comprhension exige de prendre en considration la logique luvre dans lensemble de la notice
sacrificielle (Ant. 3.224236) et mme de remonter un peu plus haut
dans le texte. On dcouvre alors que la brivet de lexpos sacrificiel tient moins une hypothtique confusion qu la volont de
construire un systme cohrent de connaissance et de reprsentation
des sacrifices juifs.

Ant. 3.230 (Reinach), 196 n. 30. Dans ldition classique de Loeb en 1930, St. J.
Thackeray se rfre explicitement aux commentaires de J. Weill et y renvoie.
Flavius Josphe. Les Antiquits Juives. Livres I III. (ed. . Nodet, Paris: Le Cerf,
1992), 188, n. 8.
Josephus. Judean Antiquities 14. (transl. L. H. Feldman, Leiden: Brill, 2000), 294,
n. 616.

le systme sacrificiel de flavius josphe


La catgorie des charistres chez Josphe

Commenons par les charistres () : en raison de la signification implicite du terme et partir de la racine , tous les traducteurs de Josphe ont spontanment compris quils dsignaient des
sacrifices dactions de grce.11 Ce choix des traducteurs et linterprtation sous-jacente quil implique ne vont pas sans consquence
dans la mesure o il existe, dans la longue liste des sacrifices juifs
mentionns dans le Lvitique, une catgorie spcifique de sacrifices
. Or il est clair que ce nest pas l le sens
dactions de grce,
que Josphe entendait donner sa propre catgorie des charistres.
Dabord parce quil sest donn la peine ici de forger un terme propre, inconnu des versions grecques de la LXX : nappartient pas au vocabulaire des sacrifices de la Bible grecque.12 Quant au

, le sacrifice dactions de grce, il y est gnralement traduit

par le grec ou bien, en une occasion, par . Ensuite,
Josphe prcise en Ant. 3.229 que la viande de ces charistres peut
tre consomme durant les deux jours qui suivent le sacrifice.13 Mais
) sont prciil se trouve que les sacrifices daction de grce (
sment exclus, par le code sacerdotal, de cette loi gnrale ; Lev 7:15
ordonne en effet quils soient consomms dans les vingt-quatre heures
qui suivent la crmonie.14 On doit donc exclure que le
de Josphe dsigne le
lvitique : le charistre nest pas un
sacrifice dactions de grce. Mieux vaut donc, sans sattacher davantage des tymologies hypothtiques, sen remettre la dfinition
quen donne lui-mme Josphe en Ant. 3.225 :
Il y a aussi le charistre,
dont loffrande est accompagne du banquet de ceux qui ont offert le
sacrifice. Il est clair que la catgorie des dsigne chez
Josphe les sacrifices de partage, ou de commensalit, cest--dire tous

En franais sacrifices dactions de grce pour J. Weill et . Nodet ; en anglais
for thanksgiving pour St. J. Thackeray et L. Feldman.
Pour tre prcis le mot , au sens de
, apparat une fois dans
la LXX, dans une interpolation chrtienne en 2 Mac 12:45. Sur cette interpolation vid.
Lvi 1994, 97114.
Pendant deux jours on mange ce qui reste des viandes ; sil y a du surplus, il est
entirement brl. Ant. 3.229.
La viande du sacrifice dactions de grce (
) offert pour son salut sera
mange le jour de son offrande ; on nen laissera pas de ct jusquau lendemain.
Lev 7:15.


christophe batsch

les sacrifices dont la loi prvoit quune partie seulement est brle sur
lautel, tandis que le reste est consomm par loffrant et ses proches.
Le terme hbreu le plus proche serait donc probablement ( shelamm). Pourtant la catgorie des charistres ne recouvre pas celle des
shelamm ; du moins, pas seulement.

Dfinition dun systme

Cest prcisment dans ces deux phrases places au dbut de la notice
sacrificielle, en Ant. 3.224225, que Josphe dfinit ce que jai nomm
son systme sacrificiel : ,

Or il existe deux types de
crmonies sacrificielles (hirurgies), dont les unes sont accomplies au
profit des particuliers, les autres au profit du peuple et elles oprent
selon deux modes (tropes) ; selon lun toute loffrande est brle en
holocauste, ce pourquoi on leur a donn ce nom ; les autres sont des
charistres dont loffrande est accompagne du banquet de ceux qui
ont offert le sacrifice.
On voit que Josphe dfinit ici deux catgories doppositions quil
nomme respectivement hirurgie (type de crmonie sacrificielle)
et trope (modalits de loffrande du sacrifice). Le premier axe est
dfini par lopposition entre crmonies de caractre communautaire
ou collectif (), et crmonies linitiative dun particulier ().
Le second par lopposition entre deux modus operandi : sacrifices
entirement brls sur lautel et consacrs la divinit (quil nomme
holocaustes)15 versus sacrifices dont une partie est consomme par
loffrant ou sacrifices de commensalit (quil nomme charistres). Le
croisement de ces deux critres fonds sur une opposition, btit un

Les commentateurs ont depuis longtemps relev que de la dfinition josphienne de lholocauste correspondait au vocabulaire grec du sacrifice (,
) mais non lhbreu, dans lequel
signifie monter. Cela est connu
depuis la LXX et na gure de consquence sauf lorsquon dsigne lautel du Temple
comme lautel des holocaustes, paraissant ainsi le rserver cette catgorie particulire de sacrifices, alors quil faut lire lautel de la mont, sur lequel sont consums
toutes les offrandes qui montent vers les narines divines.

le systme sacrificiel de flavius josphe


systme classificatoire qui dispense ensuite Josphe dentrer dans une

numration dtaille de la diversit des sacrifices juifs.
Deux raisons justifient quon parle ici de systme sacrificiel.
1) La premire est quavec ces deux critres, Josphe introduit un
ordre et une classification l o le code sacerdotal se contentait dune
numration, mais ne formulait aucun principe gnral gouvernant
la pratique sacrificiel. Plus exactement on admettra que le Lvitique
nonce (en Lev 17:11) la thorie essentielle que la vie est dans le sang.
Cette assertion constitue indiscutablement le principe au fondement de
tous les sacrifices juifs sanglants et, de ce fait mme, ne peut pas offrir
un principe dorganisation. linverse, ds linstant que lon introduit
dans cette numration du Lvitique un quelconque critre dopposition, on rorganise la liste des sacrifices en les classant selon ce critre :
on en trouve de nombreux exemples dans la littrature rabbinique, en
particulier dans le Seder Qodashm. Les Sages ont par exemple des discussions concernant les rites daspersion du sang sur lautel (b. Zebahim 44), ou sur la part de graisse de la victime quon doit brler sur
lautel (b. Hullin 117) : dans ces deux passages, lintroduction dun critre spcifique (laspersion du sang ou la graisse de lanimal) conduit
une rorganisation des sacrifices du Lvitique conforme ce critre et,
par consquent, mieux adapte aux dbats en cours.
Cependant ces nouvelles classifications, si elle sont ncessaires
lmergence dun systme, ne sont pas suffisantes pour ltablir.
2) La seconde exigence requise pour que lon puisse parler dun
systme, est que chaque sacrifice du Lvitique sans aucune exception
puisse y trouver sa place. Avec ses deux axes classificatoires, Josphe
btit une sorte de matrice quatre entres. La question est ici de dterminer dans quelle mesure ces quatre entres couvrent la totalit des
sacrifices juifs ; et dans quelle mesure aussi elles rendent un compte
exact de la diversit et de la complexit des pratiques sacrificielles
dcrites par le code sacerdotal. Un exemple prcis permettra dtablir
la pertinence du modle de Josphe en la matire.
La matrice sacrificielle de Josphe

communautaire ou

en holocauste
(tout est consum)

en charistre
(partage et festin)


christophe batsch

Le hattat du grand prtre est-il un holocauste ?

Revenons cette affirmation de Ant. 3.230 qui causa tant de difficults aux lecteurs savants de Josphe : On sacrifie aussi pour les
pchs et les crmonies (hirurgies) se droulent dans des formes
(tropes) identiques ce que jai mentionn au sujet des charistres.
Replac dans la matrice sacrificielle de Josphe (ci-dessus), on doit
comprendre que tous les hattat et tous les asham (les sacrifices pour
les pchs) sont des sacrifices de partage figurant dans la colonne
des charistres : ce sont de ces sacrifices dont une partie seulement est
offerte la divinit, par opposition aux holocaustes. Hattat et asham
sont en effet des offrandes partiellement consumes sur lautel et il en
existe concernant les particuliers comme la communaut.
Une difficult surgit ce propos : lorsque le grand prtre, par exemple loccasion des rites du yom ha-kippurim, offre un sacrifice hattat
pour les pchs de toute la nation dIsral, ou bien pour lui-mme et sa
maison, rien de ces deux offrandes ne doit tre consomm, mais lune
comme lautre sont entirement dtruites (Lev 16:6, 11, 15, 25, 27).
Ds lors ne surprend-on pas ici Josphe en flagrante erreur ? Ces deux
sacrifices pour le pch ne devraient-ils pas relever de la colonne des
holocaustes et non de celle des charistres ?
Nullement. Cet exemple illustre au contraire la parfaite connaissance
que possde Josphe de la logique rituelle des sacrifices au Temple de
Dans laccomplissement dun sacrifice de hattat pour les pchs, le
partage de loffrande concerne exclusivement la divinit et les prtres :
loffrant, qui est aussi le pcheur, en est exclu. Il serait en effet la fois
incohrent et choquant que le pcheur put, en quelque sorte, tirer un
bnfice personnel de son pch en se nourrissant, lui et les siens, dune
partie de son offrande de rachat. Dans ces circonstances, seuls les prtres
participent donc au banquet sacrificiel. Mais ds lors que le grand prtre
se trouve lui-mme inclus dans le pch que le sacrifice vise purger,
soit personnellement, soit comme chef de famille, soit comme principal
dirigeant de la nation, il est naturellement exclu quil puisse prendre part
au banquet ni lui ni aucun autre prtre. Il faut donc que loffrande
sacrificielle soit entirement brle. Mais cette consumation complte
nen fait pas pour autant un holocauste car elle nest pas sacrificielle.
Selon les termes, trs prcis sur ce point, du code sacerdotal (Lev 4:10
12), la portion de lanimal ordinairement rserve la divinit dans un
sacrifice hattat est, comme lordinaire, brle sur lautel : ceci constitue
le sacrifice proprement dit. Tout ce qui reste de lanimal, y compris la
portion ordinairement consomme par les prtres, est ensuite emport

le systme sacrificiel de flavius josphe


et brl lcart, hors du camps, dans le lieu pur ()

consacr la collecte des cendres et des dchets sacrificiels : cette destruction des restes de lanimal ne peut en aucune manire tre assimile
un sacrifice. En dpit du fait que la victime sacrificielle est entirement
dtruite, le hattat du grand prtre (comme celui de toute la nation) ne
sest pas transform en holocauste, mais demeure fondamentalement un
charistre. Josphe, sur ce point, se rvle un meilleur connaisseur des
sacrifices juifs que ses modernes critiques.

Systmes sacrificiels et fin des sacrifices

quoi vise llaboration dune telle reprsentation systmatique des
sacrifices juifs du temple de Jrusalem ? On est spontanment tent
dimaginer ici une sorte dinterpretatio des rites sacrificiels juifs destination dun public grec et romain. Sa prsentation systmatique dispenserait ainsi Josphe de la longue et fastidieuse numration des sacrifices
prvus dans telle ou telle circonstance, telle quelle figure dans le Lvitique. Les deux oppositions qui fondent le systme, entre holocaustes et
sacrifices de partage, et entre sacrifices communautaires ou collectifs et
sacrifices au profit dun particulier, pouvaient apparatre familires
et comprhensibles un lecteur non-juif infiniment plus familires et
plus comprhensibles en tout tat de cause que les subtilits conceptuelles du kipper, ou les nuances qui sparaient le hattat du asham.
Sur le mme sujet Philon dAlexandrie nous offrirait lexemple dun
attitude inverse quand il rdige, galement en grec et peu prs la
mme poque, son long dveloppement consacr aux sacrifices de
Jrusalem dans le De specialibus legibus : la diffrence de Josphe il
nprouve pas le besoin de btir un systme des sacrifices juifs, mais
sen tient assez rigoureusement la prsentation du code sacerdotal.
La volont de se faire comprendre dun public non-juif, supposer
quelle ft tablie, noffre donc pas une rponse entirement satisfaisante.
Il parat beaucoup plus pertinent de replacer leffort de systmatisation
des sacrifices accompli par Josphe dans le contexte des dbats qui traversaient le judasme de la fin de lpoque du deuxime temple et au
dbut de la priode michnaque.16 Ce fut un temps o se multiplirent,

Lors du colloque international de Hafa, tienne Nodet fit observer ce propos
tout lintrt heuristique de lhypothse que Josphe sadresst dabord ses lecteurs
juifs. Je le suis entirement sur ce point.


christophe batsch

dans le contexte tragique de laffrontement avec Rome, les rflexions

juives sur la nature et la dfinition du judasme ; et plus prcisment,
dans le domaine qui nous occupe ici, les efforts visant donner une
reprsentation systmatique des sacrifices juifs accomplis au temple.
Je laisserai de ct, pour des raisons de temps, les dbats rabbiniques que jai dj rapidement voqus, concernant divers aspects du
sacrifice et qui aboutirent galement, selon quun critre classificatoire
ou un autre tait retenu, baucher des reprsentations systmatiques
indites. Pour men tenir aux crits juifs antrieurs la destruction du
temple, jvoquerai ici deux exemples de systmatisation des sacrifices
ayant prcd celle de Josphe. Pour autant quon puisse atteindre
leur logique, ces deux systmes diffrent entre eux et diffrent tous
deux de celui de Josphe.
Le premier figure dans le texte du Testament de Lvi, un crit juif
apocryphe dat, selon toute probabilit, de la fin du iime sicle avant
notre re. Ce texte reflte une tradition plus ancienne selon laquelle Lvi,
et non Aaron, fut le premier grand prtre de lhistoire juive. Dans ce
passage, Lvi transmet ses descendants les rites et les lois crmonielles
concernant les sacrifices que les prtres doivent accomplir. Lui-mme
les a reus de son grand-pre Isaac, lequel les tenaient dAbraham, qui
avait recueilli les enseignements transmis depuis Hnoch et No. Cest
ainsi que Lvi avait eu connaissance de la Loi avant mme que la Torah
ft donne Mose mais ceci est un autre dbat. Nous importe ici la
faon dont le texte classe et dfinit les sacrifices juifs. Lvi voque lenseignement dIsaac (T. Lev. 9:78) :
. Et il menseigna les lois du sacerdoce et des sacrifices, des sacrifices en holocaustes,
des prmices, des sacrifices volontaires et des sacrifices pour le salut.
Les sacrifices juifs sont donc classs et rsums par ces cinq catgories:
les , , , et . Ce classement, quoique moins rigoureux que celui de Josphe, organise dj un
systme des sacrifices juifs, que lon peut dcrypter en saidant du vocabulaire grec des LXX:
renvoie tous les sacrifices sanglants et aux offrandes de crales qui les accompagnent (en hbreu , zebah et , minhah);
dsigne loffrande des prmices et des premiers-ns;
sont les holocaustes;
dsigne les sacrifices offerts pour accomplir un vu (en
hbreu , nedabah);

le systme sacrificiel de flavius josphe


enfin se rfre tous les autres sacrifices de partage (en hbreu

, shelamm) qui nont pas t explicitement mentionns.

On doit prendre en considration que le premier terme nest pas classificatoire : il englobe les quatre catgories de sacrifices numres
sa suite. De ce classement quadripartite, se dgage une reprsentation
globale du systme sacrificiel juif daprs laquelle, dune part, il nest
pas tabli de distinction tranche entre sacrifices sanglants et offrandes
vgtales;17 et qui, dautre part et surtout, revendique de faire entrer la
totalit des sacrifices juifs dans ces quatre catgories: prmices, holocaustes, sacrifices votifs et sacrifices de partage. la diffrence de Josphe, lauteur du Testament de Lvi na donc pas jug bon de prciser,
dans son systme, la place particulire des sacrifices lis la faute ou
au pch. Ce texte nen prsente pas moins la plus ancienne tentative
juive connue de prsenter les sacrifices sous une forme systmatique.
Quelque chose danalogue figure dans la littrature communautaire
de Qoumrn. Je nen donnerai ici quun exemple tir de la Rgle de la
Communaut. Il sagit dinstructions liturgiques concernant les sacrifices et la prire (1QS IX 4) :
Pour purger la culpabilit de la faute
et l'infidlit du pch, pour la bienveillance (divine) sur le pays: par la
chair des holocaustes et par la graisse du sacrifice-de-partage.
De ce passage difficile et trs discut, je donne ici une traduction
largement inspire du commentaire, dj ancien, de Jean Carmignac
et de sa conviction, que je partage, que la communaut de Qoumrn
na jamais renonc poursuivre (ou reprendre ds que cela serait
possible) la pratique des sacrifices sanglants.18 Mais, au demeurant,
mme admettre que cette phrase ait eu un sens ngatif (pas par
la chair etc.), lopration classificatoire des sacrifices subsisterait. Les
auteurs de la Rgle dfinissent ici les deux axes selon lesquels ils classent et organisent lensemble des sacrifices juifs. Le premier, comme
chez Josphe, est lopposition entre holocaustes ( )et sacrifices
de partage (). Le second est propre Qoumrn, dont il exprime
lune des proccupations thologiques: il sagit de lintention, ou de
lobjectif recherch par loffrant. La Rgle oppose, dans ce domaine, la
purgation-expiation ( )de la faute dune part, la qute de lappui


Sur la question des offrandes vgtales dans le judasme ancien vid. Marx 1994.
Carmignac 1956, 52432.


christophe batsch

divin ( )dautre part. Cette opposition reflte limportance accorde par la communaut de Qoumrn aux lois de puret, ainsi que
lquivalence quelle tablissait entre faute et impuret: les deux formes
de pratiques sacrificielles se compltent ainsi ncessairement, dans la
mesure o il tait inenvisageable de rechercher la protection divine
sans tre auparavant purg-purifi de toute faute et pch.
Ici aussi on peut donc, comme chez Josphe, reprer la volont de
btir un systme, capable de rendre compte et de formuler implicitement une thorie de lensemble des sacrifices pratiqus au temple.
Si diverses quelles puissent apparatre, ces tentatives spcifiquement juives de la fin de lpoque du deuxime temple convergent
dans la volont de donner un caractre systmatique aux ordonnances
sacrificielles du code sacerdotal. Compte tenu du droulement des vnements historiques et de la brusque interruption de la pratique sacrificielle, on est en droit de se demander dans quelle mesure ces efforts
de systmatisation ont pu contribuer faciliter lvolution du judasme
vers une pratique religieuse devenue, par force, non-sacrificielle.
Vocabulaire des sacrifices bibliques dans la Torah19
dans le TM


dans la LXX



se souvenir

9, 37, 10



pour la faute


, ,



85, 10


95, 25



offrande vgtale




4, 1




pour lerreur
1, 2
6, 1

Apud Dorival, Loriginalit de la Bible grecque des Septante en matire de sacrifice, 311.

le systme sacrificiel de flavius josphe


Altshuler, David A. 1979. The Treatise On Customs and
Causes by Flavius Josephus. The Jewish Quarterly Review 69: 22632.
. 1982. On the Classification of Judaic Laws in the Antiquities of Josephus and the
Temple Scroll of Qumran. Association for Jewish Studies Review 7: 114.
Bottro, J. 1987. Msopotamie. Lcriture, la raison et les dieux. Paris: Gallimard.
Carmignac, J. 1956. LUtilit ou linutilit des sacrifices sanglants dans la Rgle de la
Communaut de Qumrn. Revue Biblique 63: 52432.
Castelli S. 2002. Josephan Halakhah and the Temple Scroll: Questions of Sources and
Exegetic Traditions in the Laws of Purity. Henoch 24: 33141.
Dorival, G. 2005. Loriginalit de la Bible grecque des Septante en matire de sacrifice.
Pages 30915 in La cuisine et lautel. Les sacrifices en question dans les socits de la
Mediterranne ancienne. Edited by S. Georgoudi, R. Koch Piettre and F. Schmidt.
Turnhout: Brepols.
Flavius Josphe. 1992. Les Antiquits Juives. Livres I III. Edited and translated by
mile Nodet, Paris: Le Cerf.
. 19001932. uvres compltes. Translated by Th. Reinach et al. 7 vols. Paris.
Goldenberg, D. 1976. The Halakha in Josephus and in Tannaitic Literature. A Comparative Study. The Jewish Quarterly Review 67 (): 3043.
Josephus. 2000. Judean Antiquities 14. Translation and Commentary by Louis H.
Feldman et al. Leiden: Brill.
Lvi, I. 1994. La commmoration des mes dans le Judasme. Revue des tudes Juives
29 (1894): 4360. Repr. pages 97114 in I. Lvi Le Ravissement du Messie sa naissance et autres essais. Edited by . Patlagean: Louvain: Peeters.
Marx, A. 1994. Les offrandes vgtales dans lAncien Testament. Du tribut dhommage
au repas eschatologique. Leiden: Brill.
Tomson, P. 2002. Les systmes de halakha du Contre Apion et des Antiquits. Pages
189220 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Paris 2001. tudes sur les Antiquits de Josphe. Edited by F. Siegert et J. Kalms. Mnsteraner Judaistische Studien
12. Mnster : LIT.


Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev

Titus decision concerning the Jerusalem temple: Josephus and

Sulpicius versions on the background of Roman policy
According to Josephus, the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed against
the wishes of Titus (War 6. 266). While dealing with the final confrontation between the Jews and the Romans in the area of the Jerusalem Temple, Josephus states that Titus called together his generals
and brought forward for debate the subject of the Temple. Some were
of the opinion that the law of war should be enforced, since the Jews
would never cease from rebellion while the Temple remained as the
focus for concourse from every quarter. Others advised that if the
Jews abandoned it should be saved, but that if they mounted it for
purposes of warfare, it should be burnt. As for Titus, Josephus states
that he declared that even were the Jews to mount it (the Temple)
and fight there from, he would not wreak vengeance on inanimate
objects instead of men, nor under any circumstances burn down so
magnificent a work; for the loss would affect the Romans, inasmuch as
it would be an ornament to the empire if it stood (War 6. 241).
Since the nineteenth century, scholars have wondered whether we
should believe this account in view of the fact that it is contradicted
by the later testimony of Cassius Dio, who gives Titus a leading role in
precipitating the destruction1 and by that of Sulpicius Severus, who in
the early fifth century states that in the council of war which preceded
the final assault Titus himself opted for destruction: Titus . . . expressed
the opinion that the Temple should be destroyed without delay, in order
that the religion of the Jews and Christians should be more completely

* My best thanks to Professor Ben Zion Rosenfeld for his helpful suggestions. I
wish to dedicate this paper to Erich Gruen, on the occasion of his retirement, and to
the blessed memory of his wonderful and beloved wife Joan.
. . . The entrance to the Temple was now laid open to the Romans. Nevertheless,
the soldiers because of their superstition did not immediately rush in; but at last, under
compulsion from Titus, they made their way inside (Historia Romana, 66, 6, 2).


miriam pucci ben zeev

exterminated. For those religions, though opposed to one another, derive

from the same founders; the Christians stemmed from the Jews and the
extirpation of the root would easily cause the offspring to perish.2 In
spite of different details, Orosius, too, gives a similar account.3
Until the 1990s, the majority of scholarly works tend to reject Josephus account since the opposite testimony of Sulpicius seems better grounded in the Roman policy.4 Romans usually respected foreign
religions, cults and temples, but only as long as there were no rebellions under the mask of religion. A striking example is Vespasians
dealings with the temple of Onias in Egypt a few years later. After the
fall of Masada, a group of sicarii had reached Alexandria, trying to stir
up resistance to Rome. Fearing the Roman reactions, the local Jews
rushed furiously upon the sicarii to seize them and delivered them
to the Roman authorities. In spite of this act of loyalty, and in spite
of the fact that, as far as we know, this temple had played no role at
all in the war in Judea nor in the present disturbances at Alexandria
(in fact, the legitimacy itself of this temple and of its cult remains an
open question in scholarship),5 Vespasian ordered Lupus, the prefect
of Egypt, to demolish the Jewish temple in the so-called district of
Onias.6 The reason that Vespasian made this decision was suspicion:
viewing with suspicion the irrepressible tendency of the Jews to rebel,
and fearing that they might all collect together in force and get others
At contra alii et Titus ipse evertendum in primis templum censebant: Chron. 2, 30,
67 = Stern 1980, II, 6467, (no. 282).
According to Orosius, Titus long considered whether to burn the Temple or
whether to conserve it as testimony of his victory, sed Ecclesia Dei iam per totum
Orbem uberrime germinante, hoc tamquam effetum ac vacuum nullique usui bono
commodum arbitrio Dei auferendum fuit. Itaque Titus . . . templum in Hierosolymis
incendit ac diruit (Historiarum adversus paganos libri VII, 9, 56). See Parente 2000,
The numerous works (by Bernays, Mommsen, Von Gutschmid, Valeton, Weber,
Garzetti, Thackeray, Streeter, Momigliano, Alon, Weiler, Lewy, Urbach, Gry, Schalit,
Brandon, Montefiore, Schrer, De Martino, Yavetz, Barnes, Fornaro, Vidal Naquet,
Gabba, Feldman, Jones, Moehring, Franchet dEsprey, Goodman, Price, Barclay,
Levick, Spilsbury, Schfer, and Rives) dealing with the subject are quoted by Leoni
2007, 36, n. 313.
See Wasserstein 1993, 11929; Gruen 1997, 4770; Schwartz 1997, 522; Taylor
1998, 207321.
Josephus tells us that Lupus . . . having carried off some of the votive offerings,
shut up the building. Lupus dying soon after, Paulinus, his successor in office, completely stripped the place of its treasures, threatening the priests with severe penalties
if they failed to produce them all, prohibited would-be worshippers from approaching the precincts, and, closing the gates, debarred all access, as to leave henceforth no
vestige of divine worship on the spot (War 7. 433435).

between fact and fiction


to join them . . . (War 7. 420). According to Rives, this decision to

close the Onias temple and end its cult indicates that Vespasian wished
to take no chances of allowing a revived Jewish temple cult.7
As for the Jerusalem Temple, Rives observes that the decision to
destroy it would have attained many and good results: wipe out Jewish
religion, gain control of the wealth stockpiled in the Temple and transform the Temple tax into a lasting source of income, demonstrate the
absolute victory of the Roman god Jupiter, and thereby obtain legitimacy for the new dynasty. Rives suggests that Roman authorities had
long been aware that the cult of the Jews was a potential source of
practical problems: the great crowds that filled Jerusalem at the major
festivals were well known to be volatile and liable to unrest, and the
Jewish Temple was the symbol of Jewish resistance and the theological centre of Jewish opposition. In other words, the destruction
would have been necessary both to bring the revolt to an end and
to prevent any future revolts. More than that, in abolishing the cult,
Titus may have not simply taken a precaution against further revolts
in Judea, but may have hoped to eliminate the anomalous cult organization that made the Jews throughout the Roman world into a people
with an alternative focus of loyalty and national identity.8
In this context, Josephus stress on the fact that the Temple was destroyed against the wishes of Titus is somewhat odd: that is why scholars
siding with Josephus version are not numerous.9

Is Sulpicius Account Reliable?

Leonis Critique
The necessity to re-examine the issue comes from two articles written by an Italian and talented scholar, Tommaso Leoni, who challenges this common view, suggesting that we should rather rehabilitate

Rives 2005, 154.

See Rives 2005, 15466.
See the works of Weynand, Juster, Ricciotti, Fortina, Vitucci, Homo, and Abel:
bibliographical details are cited in Leoni 2007, 7, n. 18. Rajak, too, observes that as
long as it cannot be convincingly impugned, Josephus story, the best we have, is the
one that should stand: Rajak 1983, 20611.


miriam pucci ben zeev

Josephus account since the testimony of Sulpicius Severus is very difficult to believe, being an inextricable tangle of inconsistencies and
distortions, where the Jews are only a pretext to mention the Christians and where the notion that Titus desire to destroy the Temple
was motivated by the resolve of uprooting the plant of Christianity
is obviously not tenable.
Leoni is surely correct. He is correct also in pointing out that the
passage where Josephus has Titus order the whole town and the Temple to be razed to the ground (War 7. 1) does not attest any responsibility on the part of Titus since it refers to a later stage, one month
after the burning of the Temple.10 On the other hand, other arguments
are less convincing since they are not directly relevant to the question
of Titus responsibility. Such is the account of moving stages brought
along in the triumph in Rome, made up of massive painted panels, one
of which represented temples set on fire (War 7. 144), and the very
fact that the soldier who started the fire in the Temple (War 6. 252)
was not punished, which would in any case be obvious in view of the
general chaotic situation obtaining in the city at the time. Of course, it
would be easier to assess the value of Sulpicius testimony if we knew
on which sources it relied.
Sulpicius Possible Sources
Scholars have identified Sulpicius sources with the work of Marcus
Antonius Julianusa suggestion impossible to substantiate in view of
the fact that his work is not extantor with the lost part of Tacitus
Historiae. This possibility, too, cannot be verified, but most scholars
seem to accept it in view of the fact that at least in two other instances11
Sulpicius did use the work of Tacitus.12 It seems, however, that Sulpicius made use also of Josephus or the tradition of Josephus,13 so that
one cannot rule out also the possibility that Sulpicius depends here on


Leoni 2007, 460; idem 2002 (8).

On these passages, see Stern 1980, 66.
The suggestion put forward by Bernays in 1861 that this passage of Sulpicius
depends on Tacitus, has been widely followed. See bibliographical details in Stern
1980, 6467; in more recent time, see also Barnes 1977, 22431; Barnes 2005, 13335
and the works of van Andel, and Laupot quoted by Rives 2005, 147, n 3.
The number of Jews killed during the siege of Jerusalem given by Sulpicius, for
example, is 1.100.000, which agrees with the figure of Josephus (War 6, 420) but not
with that of Tacitus (Historiae 5, 13).

between fact and fiction


Josephus version.14 In fact, the two accounts of the council of war in

Josephus and in Sulpicius works are extremely similar: that of Sulpicius is remarkably shorter, lacking many of the details which appear in
Josephus, while it does not offer any additional item; as for the reasons
adduced by the parties, they are basically the same, the only meaningful
difference being the position of Titus himself.15 So, along with the other
possibilities, one may also allow that Sulpicius may be relying here on
Josephus very passage, changing it according to his own purposes.
All in all, it remains impossible to reach a definite conclusion
regarding the source used by Sulpicius and therefore concerning his
ultimate reliability, so that we may agree with Leoni: Sulpicius testimony does not constitute in itself a valid reason to cast doubt on
Josephus account. However, some details in the same account of Josephus make us doubt that the Temple was really destroyed against the
wishes of Titus.


I wish to thank Tessa Rajak who suggested this possibility to me.

On the next day, Titus . . . called together his generals. Six of his chief staff-officers were assembled, namely, Tiberius Alexander, the prefect of all the forces, Sextus
Cerealius, Larcius Lepidus, and Titus Phrygius, the respective commanders of the fifth,
tenth, and fifteenth legions; Fronto Haterius, prefect of the two legions from Alexandria, and Marcus Antonius Julianus, procurator of Judaea; and the procurators and
tribunes being next collected, Titus brought forward for debate the subject of the
Temple. Some were of opinion that the law of war should be enforced, since the Jews
would never cease from rebellion while the Temple remained as the focus for concourse from every quarter. Others advised that if the Jews abandoned it and placed no
weapons whatever upon it, it should be saved, but if they mounted it for purposes of
warfare, it should be burnt; as it would then be no longer a Temple, but a fortress, and
thenceforward the impiety would be chargeable, not to the Romans but to those who
forced them to take such measures. Titus, however, declared that even were the Jews
to mount it and fight therefrom, he would not wreak vengeance on inanimate objects
instead of men, nor under any circumstances burn down so magnificent a work; for
the loss would affect the Romans, inasmuch as it would be an ornament to the empire
if it stood. Fortified by this pronouncement, Fronto, Alexander and Cerealius now
came over to his view. He then dissolved the council . . . (War 6. 236243). As for the
account of Sulpicius, it reads as follows: It is said that Titus summoned his council,
and before taking action consulted it whether he should overthrow a sanctuary of such
workmanship, since it seemed to many that a sacred building, one more remarkable
than any other work, should not be destroyed. For if preserved it would testify to the
moderation of the Romans, while if demolished it would be a perpetual sign of cruelty.
On the other hand, others, and Titus himself, expressed their opinion that the Temple
should be destroyed without delay, in order that the religion of the Jews and Christians should be more completely exterminated. For those religions, though opposed
to one another, derive from the same founders; the Christians stemmed from the Jews
and the extirpation of the root would easily cause the offspring to perish (Chron. 2,
30, 67 = Stern 1980, II, 6467, (no. 282).


miriam pucci ben zeev

Josephus Version

The Fire
Josephus tells us that the fire was purely accidental. In absence of Titus,
who was resting in his tent (War 6. 254), one of the soldiers, awaiting
no orders and with no horror of so dread a deed, but moved by some
supernatural impulse, snatched a brand from the burning timber and,
hoisted up by one of the comrades, flung the fiery missile through a
low golden door, which gave access on the north side to the chambers
surrounding the sanctuary (War 6. 252).
Josephus portrays this act as the very beginning of the end, adding
that as the flame shot up, a cry, as poignant as the tragedy, arose
from the Jews, who flocked to the rescue, lost to all thought of selfpreservation, all husbanding of strength, now that the object of all
their past vigilance was vanishing (War 6. 253).
Was this really the case? Hardly, since this fire was not the only one
which broke out on that terrible day. In the following hours, six more
fires were lit by the Roman soldiers, in different points of the Temple
area, and this while Titus himself was on present on the spot. As
they (the legionaries) drew nearer to the sanctuary . . . they shouted to
those in front of them to throw in the firebrands (War 6. 258); the
end was precipitated by one of those who had entered the building,
and who . . . thrust a firebrand, in the darkness, into the hinges of the
gate. At once, a flame shot up from the interior . . . and there was none
to prevent those outside from kindling a blaze (War 6. 265266);
The Romans . . . set them (the surrounding buildings) all alight, both
the remnants of the porticoes and the gates . . . They further burnt the
treasury-chambers . . . They then proceeded to one of the remaining
portico of the outer court . . . (and) set fire to the portico from below
(War 6. 281284).
In the meantime, the fight continued. On all sides was carnage and
flight, the victors plundered everything that fell in their way and
slaughtered wholesale all who were caught (War 6. 271); you would
indeed have thought that the temple-hill was boiling over from its
base, being everywhere one mass of flame, but yet that the stream of
blood as more copious than the flames and the slain more numerous
than the slayers (War 6. 275).

between fact and fiction


In this context, it is hard to believe that all these fires were, like
the first one, accidental, and, moreover, that they were all lit against
the wishes of Titus as Josephus would like us to believe, when he
writes: he (Titus) ran to the Temple to arrest the conflagration (War
6. 254); Caesar, both by voice and hand, signaled to the combatants
to extinguish the fire (War 6. 256); Titus . . . rushed out and by personal appeals endeavoured to induce the soldiers to quench the fire
(War 6. 262). These statements are somewhat puzzling, and the picture
of a commander finding himself unable to restrain the impetuosity
of his frenzied soldiers and the fire gaining the mastery (War 6. 260)
is difficult to take at face value. Similarly problematic is the question
of the spoils.
The Spoils
Josephus tells us that the spoils of the Temple were brought along during the triumph celebrated in Rome: the spoils in general were borne
in promiscuous heaps; but conspicuous above all stood out those captured in the Temple of Jerusalem. These consisted of the golden table
of the shewbread and the golden seven-branched candelabrum (War
7. 148).
Parente is the first to ask, how did it happen that these objects were
not destroyed in the fire during the final conflagration?16 Certainly the
question deserves our attention.
From the account that Josephus provides us, we get the impression
that there was no deliberate, premeditated and programmed pillage of
the Temple. Nowhere does Josephus tell us that Titus ordered the holy
vessels of the Temple carried away. On the contrary, after describing the beginning of the fire, he states that the holy vessels were still
in their place (Caesar . . . passed with his generals within the building
and beheld the holy place of the sanctuary and all that it contained:
War 6. 260). Josephus seems to put the blame on frenzied Roman
soldiers who were overpowered by their rage and their hatred of the
Jews and motivated by the prospect of plunder. The Romans plundered everything that fell in their way (War 6. 260, 271), but Josephus
does not say that these soldiers delivered the sacred objects to Titus.


Parente 2005, 6366.


miriam pucci ben zeev

He states instead that, after the eventual Roman victory, the sacred
vessels had been delivered to the Romans by the Jews themselves:
one of the priests . . . after obtaining a sworn pledge of protection from
Ceasar, on condition of his delivering up some of the sacred treasures,
came out and handed over from the wall of the sanctuary two lamp
stands similar to those deposited in the sanctuary, along with them
tables, bowls, and platters, all of solid gold and very massive; he further
delivered up the veils ( ), the high priests vestments,
including the precious stones, and many other articles used in public
worship. Furthermore, the treasurer of the Temple . . . being taken prisoner, disclosed the tunics and girdles worn by the priests, an abundance
of purple and scarlet kept for necessary repairs to the veil of the Temple,
along with a mass of cinnamon and cassia and a multitude of other
spices, which they mixed and burnt daily as incense to God. Many other
treasures also were delivered up by him, with numerous sacred ornaments (War 6. 387391).

However, some details of this account are difficult to take at face

value. How could the priests have had so many objects in hand?
Moreover, how could a single priest have handed out, from a wall,
heavy objects such as the table, which was of solid gold and very
Similarly problematic, as Parente points out in a recent essay,18 is
the case of the veils of the Temple, mentioned by Josephus in his list
of objects handed over from the wall of the sanctuary by one of the
priests (War 6. 389), and again recorded among the spoils carried to
Rome which were deposited in the palace: . . . but their Law (namely,
the scroll of the Law) and the purple veils (
) of the sanctuary he (Titus) ordered to be deposited
and kept in the palace.19
There were thirteen veils in the temple,20 two of which are described
by Josephus: the one that adorned the external door of the ulam,21 and
As for the tables size, we have the traditions preserved by two Rabbis living in
the middle of the second century ce: according to Rabbi Judah, the golden table measured 10 5 handbreadth (about 100 50 cm.), while according to Rabbi Meir it was
12 6 handbreadth (which would mean about 120 60 cm.) (m. Menachot 11:5).
Parente 2005, 6668.
War 7. 16162.
b. Yoma 54a; b. Ketubbot 106a.
The gate opening into the building was . . . completely overlaid with gold . . .; and
it had golden doors fifty-five cubits high and sixteen broad. Before these (doors) hung
a veil () of equal length, of Babylonian tapestry, with embroidery of blue
and fine linen, if scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvelous skill. Nor was this

between fact and fiction


the one that divided the holy place from the Holy of Holies.22 One of
these last ones was that (or among those) carried to Rome: a tradition
preserved in the Jerusalem Talmud states that a Rabbi living in the
middle of the second century, while staying in Rome, had the opportunity of seeing the veil, which was kept in a repository and had many
spots of blood on it, which may be identified with the blood of the
sacrifices held on the Day of Atonement.23
These veils had to be very heavy: they measured 40 20 cubits (estimating the cubit to be about 50 cm., that would give us about 20 10
meters), and their thickness was one handbreadth, or about 10 cm.24
Their considerable weight is vividly portrayed by the Mishnah, which
states that three hundred priests had to carry these veils when they had
to immerse them for purification.25 Surely one single priest could not
have handed them down from a wall. The question, then, is how and
when they got into Roman hands. Most probably, not during the final
fight which took place in the temple. Josephus tells us that:
While the temple blazed, the victors plundered everything that fell in
their way and slaughtered all who were caught. No pity was shown for
age, no reverence for rank; children and greybeards, laity and priests,
alike were massacred. . . . the roar of the flames streaming far and wide
mingled with the groans of the falling victims; and, owing to the height
of the hill and the mass of the burning pile, one would have thought
that the whole city was ablaze. . . . There were the war-cries of the Roman
legions sweeping onward in mass, the howls of the rebels encircled by
fire and sword, the rush of the people who, cut off above, fled panicstricken only to fall into the arms of the foe, and their shrieks as they met
their fate. But yet more awful than the uproar were the sufferings. You
would indeed have thought that the temple-hill was boiling over from
its base, being everywhere one mass of flame, but yet that the stream of
blood was more copious than the flames and the slain more numerous
than the slayers. . . . The Romans, thinking it useless, now that the temple
mixture of materials without its mystic meaning: it typified the universe. For the scarlet seemed emblematic of fire, the fine linen of the earth, the blue the air, and the
purple of the sea; the comparison in two cases being suggested by their color, and in
that of the fine linen and purple by their origin, as the one is produced by the earth
and the other by the sea. On this tapestry was portrayed a panorama of the heavens,
the signs of the Zodiac excepted (War 5. 210214).
The innermost recess measured twenty cubits, and was screened in like manner
from the outer portion by a veil ( )
(War 5. 219).
y. Yoma V 3, 42d; the same appears also in b. Yoma 57a and in b. Meilah 17b.
m. Shekalim 8:5. See also t. Shekalim 3:13.
m. Shekalim 8:5.


miriam pucci ben zeev

was on fire, to spare the surrounding buildings, set them all alight . . .
They then proceeded to the one remaining portico of the outer court,
on which the poor women and children of the populace and a mixed
multitude had taken refuge . . . the soldiers, carried away by rage, set fire
to the portico from below; with the result that some were killed plunging out of the flames, others perished amidst them, and out of all that
multitude not a soul escaped (War 6. 271285).

In these tragic moments, it seems highly improbable that anybody,

Roman soldiers or generals, or the Jews themselves, might have been
interested in saving the veils. In this case, they may have been taken
down after the final victory if they survived the fire. This, however, is
not the only possibility. According to a tradition preserved by Rabbi
Judah, who lived in the second century, every year, before the Day of
Atonement, the veil separating the holy place from the Holy of the
Holies was replaced by a new one, and the one which was not needed
any longer was kept in the aliya, namely, an upper chamber.26 It is
therefore possible that it was from there that the Romans carried it
off to Rome.
The same may apply also to other vessels: Josephus himself tells us
that the lamp stands delivered to the Romans were lamp stands similar to those deposited in the sanctuary (War 6. 388), implying that
they were not in use by the temple cult, and we may believe him, since
from the Mishnah we know that a second and a third set of the vessels
existed in the Temple, to be used as replacements in case of pollution
(m.Hag. 3:8).
It is therefore possible that the sacred vessels brought to Rome, or
some of them, were not those in use in the Temple cult at the time,
but had been taken from the Temple repositories. Most probably, it
was after the final victory that Titus gave orders to find out the hidden
treasuries and pack them, to be carried to Rome.

It is the account of Josephus itself that gives us some reason to believe
that things did not happen exactly as Josephus would like us to believe.
One would rather think that the decision to destroy the Temple had


t. Shekalim 3:14.

between fact and fiction


been taken before the final confrontation. Then the fires were lighted
in order to hasten the final victory, which was followed by the pillage,
and then, later, Titus ordered the whole town and the Temple to be
razed to the ground (War 7. 1). The pillage and the final demolition
suggest that Titus was interested in not leaving anything on the spot
which would allow a later rebuilding of the Temple and a revival of its
cult. In this context, it is very difficult to believe that the Temple was
destroyed against the wishes of Titus, as Josephus stresses.

Barnes, Timothy D. 1977. The Fragments of Tacitus Histories. Classical Philology 72:
. 2005. The Sack of the Temple in Josephus and Tacitus. Pages 12944 in Flavius
Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by Jonathan Edmondson et al. Oxford: University Press.
Gruen, Erich S. 1997. The Origins and Objectives of Onias Temple. Scripta Classica
Israelica 16: 4770.
Leoni, Tommaso. 2000. Tito e lincendio del Tempio di Gerusalemme: repressione o
clemenza disubbidita? Ostraka 9: 45570.
. 2007. Against Caesars Wishes: Josephus as a Source for the Burning of the Temple. Journal of Jewish Studies, 58, 1: 3951.
Parente, Fausto. 2000. Sulla doppia trasmissione, filosofica ed ecclesiastica del testo di
Flavio Giuseppe. Un contributo alla ricezione della sua opera nel mondo cristiano.
Rivista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa 36: 1721.
. 2005. The Impotence of Titus, or Flavius Josephuss Bellum Judaicum as an Example of Pathetic Historiography. Pages 4569 in Josephus and Jewish History in
Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by Joseph Sievers and Gaia Lembi. Leiden: Brill.
Rajak, Tessa. 2003 (reprint of 1983). Josephus, The Historian and His Society. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Rives, James. 2005. Flavian Religious Policy and the Destruction of the Jerusalem
Temple. Pages 14566 in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by Jonathan
Edmondson et al. Oxford: University Press.
Schwartz, Daniel R. 1997. The Jews of Egypt between the Temple of Onias, the Temple
of Jerusalem, and Heaven. Zion 62: 522.
Stern, Menahem. 1980. Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (II). Jerusalem:
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Taylor, Joan E. 1998. A Second Temple in Egypt: the Evidence for the Zadokite Temple of Onias. Journal for the Study of Judaism 29: 207321.
Wasserstein, Abraham. 1993. Notes on the Temple of Onias at Leontopolis. Illinois
Classical Studies 18: 11929.


John Curran

Of all the writers of Greek to have made a home in the city of Rome,
few can have brought with them as controversial a personal biography as Flavius Josephus. As is notorious, Josephus accounts of critical
events vary between his several works; the scope and ambition of his
literary projects also show bewildering diversity; and his Life specifically
is anything but an autobiography, raising for generations of scholars
many more questions than it answers. Taken together, this biography
and the condition of Josephus opera have earned for him in the eyes
of many influential historians the lowest status as a recorder of historical data from his own times. In a review of Shaye Cohens Josephus
in Galilee and Rome (1979), Horst Moehring, wrote: It has become
fashionable in some circles, for patriotic or ecclesiastical reasons to
return to the nave view that historians of the Graeco-Roman age can
be made to yield information that would allow us to reconstruct the
historical facts of Hellenistic Judaism or the early church. Cohen seems
to believe that it is actually possible to separate fact from fiction. He
fails to realize that every single sentence of Josephus is determined and
coloured by his aims and tendencies. The raw historical data that can
be isolated are usually without much interest.1 Tessa Rajaks Josephus
was notable in places for tackling the alleged inconsistencies between
the works of the historian and with regard to his Life she credited Josephus himself with not a little charm, intelligence and even honesty.2
But she in turn drew criticism from Lester Grabbe that she had been
rather credulous in reconstructing his biography.3 Morton Smith
in the authoritative Cambridge History of Judaism (1999) offered a
stark assessment of the calibre of Josephus: For the history of the
country, the revolt and its immediate consequences we are . . . dependent

Quoted in Grabbe 1992, 1011.

Rajak 1973, 358.
Grabbe 1992, 11.


john curran

on Josephus whose sources for most of this century were chiefly hearsay, his notes, and his memoriesnone of them reliable. Besides, he
distorted them all to suit various motives . . . and his War was thoroughly edited (and many passages, especially the speeches, were written) by secretaries assigned to him by Titus.4
Discussions of Josephus work and opinions have therefore been
much-influenced historically by readers responses to the self-reported
circumstances of his life. But these responses have also, however, influenced (and limited) the ambitions of scholarship on Josephus. He is a
man and a writer who is frequently placed by scholars on the margins
of his world. As Mary Beard has recently pointed out, Josephus, the
author of works written in Greek that occupy 13 volumes in the Loeb
Classical Library is overwhelmingly ignored in discussions of classical
literature.5 He is clearly regarded as being (disconcertingly) Jewish
(and therefore the responsibility of another scholarly community). Historians of religion, and those of Judaism and Christianity in particular,
by contrast, have continued to plunder him, frequently without being
particularly interested in the complexities of Josephus life-story and
context(s). For many of these scholars Josephus is a productive oddity;
an eccentric loner who occasionally illuminates something much more
interesting in their own areas of interest. One of the most powerful
messages to emerge from the most recent international colloquium on
Josephus Between Jerusalem And Rome was the imperative importance of taking Josephus seriously as an author and not simply as a
quarry that may be used as a source of information about the various
subject matters that he treated.6
Recent work, however, has begun to shed light on the Flavian Rome
that was Josephus home, prompting some interesting research on Josephus position in that world.7 In other words, it is becoming possible
to put Josephus into some kind of cultural context, an endeavour that
historians have been slow to undertake because they understandably
were so detained by the condition of his texts. But when the attempt
is made, there follows what I believe to be some very interesting and
challenging conclusions.

Smith 1999, 50102.

Beard 2003, 54445.
Sievers and Lembi 2005, x.
Sievers and Lembi 2005; Edmondson, Mason and Rives 2005; Boyle and Dominik

flavius josephus in rome


Josephus Roman Contacts

The biography of Josephus as reported makes some famous and
impressive claims concerning his access to the highest circles in Rome.
As is well known, Josephus states that he had served on an embassy
c. ce 64 to secure the release of some priests detained by the Roman
authorities; that he had befriended a Jewish actor and favourite of
Nero (Aliturus) and through the latter got to know Poppaea, wife
of Nero. He dramatically came to know Vespasian, who freed him,
made him a citizen, gave him women to marry, and actually accommodated him in his own house in Rome. He accompanied Titus at the
siege and fall of Jerusalem; acted as an interpreter for the Romans and
also interceded for a number of friends and relatives caught up in the
destruction of the city. Josephus wrote and formally presented his Jewish War to the emperors Vespasian and Titus and the latter (who had
actually destroyed Jerusalem) authenticated it formally and ordered it
deposited in the libraries of Rome (Life 65, 363). Agrippa II (the greatgrandson of Herod the Great) admired the work, Josephus writes, and
wrote some sixty-two letters to the author on points of detail (two are
reproduced in the Vita). The emperor Domitian is reported with some
satisfaction by Josephus to have punished his Jewish accusers and
exempted his property in Judaea from taxation. Moreover, Domitia,
Caesars [Domitians] wife, never ceased conferring favours upon me
(Life 76, 429).8
In other words, Josephus tells us that he was a major figure at the
court of the Flavians and that his Jewish War had the strongest backing from them. These claims continue to be a challenge for scholars.
Hannah Cotton and Werner Eck are among the most recent to be
provoked: Josephus surely would have stressed, if not exaggerated, his
closeness to the imperial family, had such closeness existed. But in fact
he has surprisingly little to say about it.9 Unpicking Josephus claims,
they point out that Josephus accommodation in Rome was not in the
imperial palace but in Vespasians former residence, on the Quirinal
(in regio VI) and that while Josephus did indeed receive citizenship

All translations, unless otherwise indicated, from the LCL.

Cotton and Eck 2005, 38. For a similar down-playing of the actual closeness of
Josephus and the Flavians see also Mason 1998, 74.


john curran

so did many others.10 And though he claims to have sent copies of

his War to many who had taken part in the campaign (Life 362;
Apion 1. 51), he tellingly names none of them. Where are his powerful contacts? Cotton and Eck believe that Josephus was in fact the
beneficiary of quite routine imperial patronage. He was one of many
faceless clients; he just happened to be a (rather undistinguished but
copious) writer. They draw attention to the fact that while the Jewish
War was seemingly connected to Flavian interest and patronage, Josephus other works (Antiquities of the Jews; Life and Against Apion) had
a different dedicatee: one Epaphroditus. But who was he?
Josephus gives an enthusiastic but inconclusive description: . . . a
man devoted to every form of learning, but specially interested in the
experiences of history, conversant as he himself has been with large
affairs and varying turns of fortune, through all of which he has displayed a wonderful force of character and an attachment to virtue that
nothing could deflect (Antiquities 1. 8). Historians have naturally
been drawn towards the identity of this person. There are two main
candidates: The first is Neros freedman a libellis who had played a role
in detecting conspiracy against the emperor in ce 64 and was subsequently richly rewarded by the emperor for his loyalty. But his high
status did not persist. Suetonius claims that Domitian first relegated
Epaphroditus (seemingly c. ce 90) and then executed him c. ce 945,
perhaps so that he could seize his property.11 The publication dates
of Antiquities, Life and Against Apion however seem all to be around
ce 9394 when this Epaphroditus was seemingly already out of favour,
making it most unlikely that Josephus would do anything as unwise as
dedicate some works to him.
A second plausible Epaphroditus is mentioned by the late and not
always reliable 10th century Suda (s.v. Epaphroditus; d. 968). Reference is made there to a freedman grammaticus of this period who kept
two apartments in Rome housing some 30,000 scrolls. But according
to Cotton and Eck, if this man is Josephus patron for his later works
then it shows how distant Josephus was from real power in Rome.
They conclude: [Josephus] was in all likelihood extremely lonely and

Cotton and Eck 2005, 40. For topographical information on the site of Vespasians house see LTUR 2. 104: Domus: T. Flavius Vespasianus.
Suetonius, Domitian 14; Dio 67. 14. 4. See Mason 2003a, 172 n. 1780; Schrer
1973, 48 n. 9. Among those still open to the possibility of Josephus Epaphroditus as
Neros freedman, see Mason 2003b, 564; Haaland 2005, 316; Berber 1997, 656.

flavius josephus in rome


isolated at Rome . . . it throws the total isolation of the Jewish historian

in Rome into deep relief.12
The conclusions of Cotton and Eck place them in that tradition of
scholars who locate Josephus on the margins of worlds, a tradition
that is built upon the technique of scrutinizing specific propositions
made by Josephus about himself or about history and culture as he
reported it. The limitation of this approach, however, is that it does
not pay sufficient attention to Josephus context where there may be
useful information to be considered. Or, to put it another way, it does
not show sufficient interest in the reasons for the existence of Josephus
works. This prompts some consideration of the condition of Judaism
in Rome.

Judaism at Rome
As is well known, a number of incidents are reported to us concerning
Jewish matters in Flavian (and Josephan) Rome. It has been suggested
by some scholars that non-Jews in the city (and particularly during the
reign of Domitian) were actually attracted to Judaism.13 The evidence
consists of several famous pieces of testimony. Suetonius Domitian
gave an account of a rigorous investigation into the payment of the
Jewish tax in Rome: Domitians agents collected the tax on Jews with
a peculiar lack of mercy; and took proceedings not only against those
who kept their Jewish origins a secret in order to avoid the tax, but
against those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism. As a boy,
I remember once attending a crowded court where the imperial agent
had a ninety-year-old man inspected to establish whether or not he
had been circumcised (Domitian 12. 2).14
Dio Cassius (via Xiphilinus epitome) gives an account of the well
known episode in ce 95 when Domitians cousin, Titus Flavius Clemens, and his wife Flavia Domitilla were charged with atheotes (not
a charge in Roman law; possibly superstitio): And the same year
Domitian slew, along with many others, Flavius Clemens the consul,
although he was a cousin and had to wife Flavia Domitilla, who was


Cotton and Eck 2005, 52.

Feldman 1993, 100, 332; Schfer 1997, 11516.
Translated by Robert Graves.


john curran

also a relative of the emperors. The charge brought against them both
was that of atheism, a charge on which many others [italics mine] who
drifted into Jewish ways were condemned (Dio 67. 14. 12).
Commenting on the early actions of Domitians successor Nerva,
Dio writes: Nerva also released all who were on trial for asebia
[atheismagain, not a crime in Roman law] and restored the exiles;
moreover, he put to death all the slaves and the freedmen who had
conspired against their masters and allowed that class of persons to
lodge no complaint whatever against their masters; and no persons
were permitted to accuse anybody of asebia or of a Jewish mode of
life (Dio 68. 1. 2).
Finally, coins issued by Nerva, shortly after coming to power bore
the legend: Fisci Iudaici Calumnia Sublata meaning the malicious
accusation of the treasury for the Jewish tax has been removed and
indicating seemingly that some controversial aspect of the working
of the Jewish treasury and perhaps of the Jewish tax itself had been
Traditionally, the study of these episodes has been undertaken with
a view to determining the degree to which Judaism was a proselytising
religion. And so Martin Goodman has turned his attention to what
he regards as this limited evidence, suggesting that there is rather less
here than meets the eye. He points out that of the four items cited
above, only two (the case of Flavius Clemens and Domitilla and the
passage concerning Nerva banning charges of adopting a Jewish mode
of life) actually refer to people taking up a Jewish way of living. There
was no such crime as atheism in Roman law and not many of the
alleged offenders are named. According to Goodman, their so-called
Judaizing might in fact be a cover for political dissent.16 And the passage concerning Domitian could just be about Jews who were seeking to avoid paying the tax on them, not about new converts. Nervas
action recorded on coins may have been an expression of the attempt
to put some distance between himself and his Flavian predecessors;
he may even have abolished the special treasury into which Jews were
supposed to pay the former Temple-tax.17
For Goodman, the anti-Jewish ethos of the Flavian dynasty was
deeply imprinted on the landscape of Rome itself (the great Flavian


RIC 2. 227 no. 58; 228 no. 82. The translation that of Goodman 2005, 1689.
Goodman 2005, 1745.
Goodman 2005, 176.

flavius josephus in rome


amphitheatre of the city was funded by the spoils of war; the Temple
of Peace had within it looted treasures from the Temple in Jerusalem; the arch of Titus referred to the victoryalthough dedicated
by Domitian as late as ce 85).18 It is inconceivable to Goodman that
any kind of genuine enthusiasm for Judaism could have flourished
in this environment. As he puts it: By constant reminders Roman
Jews found their religion denigrated and themselves marginalized in
their own city . . . Most Jews in Flavian Rome . . . lived as a small, cowed
minority, poverty-stricken and insecure.19
But did they? According to Goodman: Josephus brave defence of
his peoples history and customs in his Antiquities, composed between
81 and 93 ce, was produced in direct contradiction to the alleged antiJewish ethos of the Flavian regime, but he asserts quite clearly the
exceptional favour showered upon him by all three Flavian emperors.20
But if Cotton and Eck are right, along with the many believers in Josephus as a lonely old man in Rome, Josephus project would have been
a highly hazardous undertaking. So what is it that Josephus says?
My privileged position excited envy and thereby exposed me to danger. A certain Jew, named Jonathan, who had promoted an insurrection
in Cyrene, occasioning the destruction of two thousand of the natives,
whom he had induced to join him, on being sent in chains by the governor of the district to the emperor, asserted that I had provided him with
arms and money. Undeceived by this mendacious statement, Vespasian
condemned him to death, and he was delivered over to execution. Subsequently, numerous accusations against me were fabricated by persons
who envied me my good fortune . . . On Vespasians decease Titus, who
succeeded to the empire, showed the same esteem for me as did his
father, and never credited the accusations to which I was constantly subjected. Domitian succeeded Titus . . . he punished my Jewish accusers . . .
(Vita 76, 425; 4289).

Goodman 2005, 170. See Millar 2005, 11718, and Alfldi 1995 on the emphasis
on Flavian Amphitheatre as a project explicitly funded ex manubis.
Goodman 2005, 173.
Goodman 2005, 17273 citing Vita 425, 42829. Cf. 175, . . . it is worth noting
the extraordinary obtuseness (or bravery) of Josephus in writing so enthusiastically
about converts to Judiasm in Adiabene and elsewhere precisely at the time of greatest
hostility to the idea in Rome (Antiquities 20. 1793; 135). To accuse someone of Judaizing was to accuse them of disloyalty to the regime. See also Goodman 1994, 3378;
Barclay 2005, 29: To write Judaean history in Rome at the end of the first century
ce was, for a Judaean, a fraught procedure; McLaren 2005, 292; Mason 2003b, 661:
Post-war Rome . . . was presumably not a pleasant environment for most expatriate


john curran

What Josephus is actually suggesting here is that he was persistently

endangered by accusations from fellow Jews, accusers who had no difficulty approaching the authorities to try and get Josephus into trouble. But these are the very people whom the conventional explanations
suggest had the strongest interest in avoiding the attention of emperors. So how dangerous a place for Jews was Flavian Rome?
A range of evidence presents itself, much of it under-appreciated by
recent studies of Jews in the imperial capital. Among the most intriguing is the fact that Titus, conqueror of Jerusalem, had a relationship
lasting several years with the (Herodian) Jewish princess Berenike. She
came to Rome in 75 and lived on the Palatine with him for several
years. The great Quintilian (first occupant of a Flavian-endowed chair
of rhetoric at Rome) acted for her in litigation. Unsurprisingly, the
satirists exploited the scandal.21 And Dio writes: Berenice was at the
height of her power and consequently came to Rome along with her
brother Agrippa. The latter was given the rank of praetor, while she
dwelt in the palace, cohabiting with Titus. She expected to marry him
and was already behaving in every respect as if she were his wife; but
when he perceived that the Romans were displeased with the situation,
he sent her away (Dio 66 (65). 15. 34).22 After the death of Vespasian, she even returned to Rome but Titus notoriously ignored her,
being now weighed down by the burdens of his position as emperor.
She was dismissed finally in ce 79.23
Although Berenike has been harshly judged by ancient satirists,
historians and modern treatments (as bigoted as she was dissolute
according to Schrer), she was clearly a person with a serious interest in Jewish affairs.24 Josephus reports that she had taken a so-called
Nazirite vow.25 She and Agrippa are recorded by Acts as interviewing
Paul of Tarsus about his ideas. Paul called Agrippa an expert in matters of custom and controversy among the Jews and Berenike was
clearly present throughout the interviews.26 Agrippa is also reported by


See Juvenal Satires 6. 15660; Tacitus Histories 2. 2.

See also Suetonius., Titus 7. 1; Aurelius Victor Epit. 10. 4; 10. 7 for apparent
promises to marry.
Dio 66. 18. 1; Suetonius, Titus 7. 2 where he is reported unwillingly to have sent
her away. Mason 2005, 93.
Schrer vol. 1 1973, 475.
War 2. 313, like queen Helena of Adiabene. See Schrer vol. 3 1986, 163 with
Acts 25. 22 ff.

flavius josephus in rome


Josephus to have had a dining room added to the eastern side of his
accommodation in the Upper City (the Hasmonaean palace) in order
to observe the priests of the Temple at their duties. Although the subsequent complaints of the Temple priesthood were upheld in Rome,
Agrippas intentions were further illustration of a committed interest
in Judaism and its institutions.27 And when James the brother of Jesus
was stoned to death: Those of the inhabitants of the city who were
considered the most fair-minded and who were strict in the observance of the Law . . . (Ant. 20. 2012) approached Agrippa in the first
instance.28 The latter deposed the High Priest Ananus on account of
his objectionable behaviour. Reviewing this evidence, it is clear that
Agrippas interest in Jewish institutions was quite real and Agrippa
continued to pursue it when beyond the province, as the letters of
Agrippa to Josephus in Rome prove.
But it is clear that Josephus labours in Rome were not undertaken
in literary isolation. There were in fact other works in circulation in
the city on the subject of the Jews and Judaism. Steve Masons translation of the opening lines of the War preserves the sense of on-going
Whereas, with respect to the war of Judaeans against Romans . . . those
who did not happen to be at the events, but are collecting random and
incoherent tales through hearsay, are writing them up sophist-like, while
others who were there are misrepresenting the events, either through flattery toward the Romans or through hatred towards the Judaeanstheir
compositions comprise denunciation in some cases and encomium in
others, but nowhere the precision of historyI, Josephus . . . have set
myself the task of providing a narrative in the Greek language . . . (War 1.

Two groups then, at least, in Rome: those who were not eye-witnesses
collecting incoherent stories and those who were but who were determined to misrepresent.


Ant. 20. 18995.

It is, I think, unwarranted to reason as Mason does, 1998, 99, that these incidents are best viewed as evidence that Agrippa continually violated Jewish law and
custom. What is significant is that Agrippa took a very real interest in what he considered the proper conduct of Jewish life.
An idea of some of the hostile ideas in circulation: Tacitus, Histories 5. 113;
Philostratus, Apollonius 5. 33; Celsus in Origen, Contra Celsum 5. 41; Minucius Felix,
Octavius 10. 33 (Jews as rebellious and misanthropic).


john curran

More specifically, the Christian writer Minucius Felix (early 3rd

century ad) knew of a work de Judeis by one Antonius Julianus, pretty
clearly Marcus Antonius Julianus, named by Josephus as the procurator of Judaea during the war.30 Fausto Parente has recently suggested
that this man may have been responsible for the official chronicle of
the war of the Flavians in Judaea, a work which was based (like Josephus War) on the commentarii of the victorious generals.31
And Josephus Life, appended to his Antiquities of the Jews, was
seemingly in significant part a response to a work written by Justus of Tiberias (in Galilee), a contemporary of Josephus and fellowcombatant in the war who had worked for Agrippa II in more recent
times.32 In his book, Justus had clearly had things to say about Josephus own activities during the war with Rome, prompting Josephus
to defend himself. But Justus of Tiberias work had been rather more
than an attack on Josephus. Photius (9th century ad) had seen it and
claimed that it had included an excursus on the kings of the Jews.33
Parente concluded that this work was without a shadow of a doubt
written for Jews.34
And rabbinic tradition (found in at least three separate tracts) has
the most prominent rabbi of the age (Schrer called him the most
celebrated scholar of the turn of the century), Gamaliel II visiting
Rome with leading rabbis under Domitian or shortly after, reportedly
in response to a proposal from a Caesar who hated the Jews that they
ought to be exterminated.35 Rabbinic works name a Roman official
spoken to by Rabbi Johanan (or in some versions Rabbi Gamaliel II).
He is variously identified but as Mary Smallwood long ago noticed,
a number of his assigned names seem to begin with ANT-. The last
procurator of the province was as we saw M. Antonius Julianus, the
author of a work on the Jews.36


Octavius 33. 4; War 6. 238. See Schrer vol. 1 1973, 334.

Parente 2005, 47.
See the careful discussion in Mason 2003a, xxviixxxiv; Rajak 1973 and 1987.
The passage usefully cited and discussed in Rajak 1973, 35865.
Parente 2005, 49.
Schrer vol. 2 1986, 375. Noted with acuity by Smallwood 1956, 10.
Smallwood 1981, 350 n. 75. See especially mErubin 4, 12; mMaaser Sheni 5, 9;
mShabbah 16, 8. As Parente points out (2005, 68 n. 48), a number of scholars (including Weber and Weinreich) think that one of the most famous incidents of reported
supernatural occurrences (god(s) leaving the Temple, reproduced in Josephus, Tacitus
and Suetonius) is likely to have come from the account of Antonius Julianus.

flavius josephus in rome


This evidence taken together suggests, I think, a rather more complicated picture of Judaism at Rome under the Flavian emperors than
has been understood. In fact, one of the most important consequences
of the Flavian military triumph in Judaea, a triumph that had culminated in the destruction of the Temple itself, was the stimulation it
provided to discourse both about but also within Judaism; a reflection
upon what being Jewish actually meant in a world without a functioning Temple in Jerusalem. Mason has suggested that Antiquities was
written for a group of Gentiles in Rome who were attracted to Jewish
culture.37 The interest of such a group is certainly demonstrable, as is
Josephus formulaic praise of their enthusiasm in his opening remarks
(Ant. 1. 4; 89). For Mason, Josephus presentation of the historic Jewish constitutions (politeia) was an attempt to persuade these interested
Gentiles. And in that constitution there was a place of exceptional
importance for a priestly aristokrateia as well as a priestly senate.38
But it is worth reflecting upon what these statements implied for Josephus himself and other priests in the postwar situation. They made
the strongest claim for their authority as participants in the discourse
over what kind of institutions could best now express the piety of the
Jews to their God. Part of that discourse took place unimpeded in Flavian Rome and his surviving works demonstrate that one of the most
voluminous contributors to it was Flavius Josephus. In fact, John Barclay has recently identified Josephus as a classic manifestation of the
postcolonial phenomenon of autohistory, an enterprise designed to
outline the history of a people in the idiom of the majority culture but
with primary reference to its own institutions and on its own terms.39
Jonathan Price has looked at Josephus as the provincial historian
in Rome.40 He considers who is likely actually to have read Josephus
works. Like Cotton and Eck, Price notes the apparent absence of evidence of Josephan participation in the highest literary circles of Rome.
He rightly observes that just as Josephus is likely never to have lost
his foreign accent, so he never shed his foreign (and to Roman eyes


Mason 1998, 7980.

Antiquities 3. 15987 (High Priests clothing); 3. 214 (gems on the High Priests
robes); 4. 304 (laws given for safe-keeping to the priests) as well as a priestly senate
(gerousia): Antiquities 5. 15; 55 where the Biblical narrative is modified to make it look
as if Moses consulted a priestly senate.
Barclay 2005, 35.
Price 2005, 101.


john curran

eccentric) outlook on the purpose of history.41 For all the mannered

Thucydidean and Polybian phrases, the intrusion of an all-too-Jewish
apologetic aim was obvious right from the opening words of the War.42
This was a consequence of his setting himself the task of addressing so
many different audiences at the same time: veterans and participants
in the war; Greeks and interested speakers of Latin.43 But of all the
ideas in the War that might have struck readers in Rome as strange
none is more challenging than that of the Romans themselves serving
as an instrument in the grand history of the Jewish gods plan for his
people. In fact, Josephus own reported speech to those besieged in
Jerusalem is a long meditation on precisely this theme.44 And as Price
acutely notes, no reader of the book of Daniel could fail to see the
deeply Jewish case being made.45 Price, however, having gone some
way to identifying usefully the distinctively Jewish outlook of Josephus, is still to a certain extent influenced by the traditional agenda of
studies on the historian in Rome, concluding again that the author was
isolated at Rome for the last thirty years of his life.46
By contrast, Steve Mason has suggested that publication of Josephus works placed him at the centre of a network of individuals and a
readership within the city of Rome itself. He goes on to argue that the
War was aimed at a readership which he describes as a sophisticated
Roman audience . . . one that was fully at home in elite discourse about
politics and constitutions, and that had a taste for fine writing.47 These
listeners and readers explain why Josephus presentation of Roman
history in the War is so abbreviated and familiar.48 But Mason encounters what he takes to be a problem. Whereas Josephus Polybian-style
table of contents (War 1. 1730) conspicuously reaches out to a
Roman audience, what actually follows in the substance of his account


Accent: Ant. 20. 263.

Price 2005, 10918.
Though cf. Paul of Tarsus Rom 1. 14 where Greeks clearly refers to those inhabiting the Hellenic world and includes speakers of Latin. See Meeks (2003, 50) who
points out that Paul is capable of conceiving of a Greek/barbarian distinction but
also of a Jew/Greekvery much like Josephus.
War 5. 362419.
Price 2005, 117.
Price 2005, 118.
Mason 2005, 99. See also Mason (1998, 68): All these works [War, Antiquities,
Life, Against Apion] are aimed at Gentiles.
Mason 2005, 9195.

flavius josephus in rome


is rather more than what is promised.49 There are in particular considerable details on figures such as John of Gischala, Simon bar Giora
and Eleazar son of Yair. As Mason puts it, . . . this outline does not in
fact match the content of the book. It seems rather carefully crafted to
hook the audience ina Roman audiencewhile reserving detailed
reinterpretation of the war for the appropriate time.50 But what Mason
may have overlooked is the possibility that interested Jewish listeners
in Rome may have been among Josephus audience. With regard to
the War, a roll-call of those to whom Josephus says that he passed
on copies makes interesting reading (Life 65, 3612; Against Apion
1. 512). The latter passage names as recipients alongside the emperors Vespasian and Titus a large number of my own people (in the
Against Apion Josephus says that he sold the work to them, whereas
in the Vita he says he passed on copies), including King Agrippa (II),
his brother-in-law Julius Archelaus and a person identified only as
the most dignified Herod.51 Mason has rightly pointed out the ongoing and personal contact which Josephus is likely to have enjoyed
with Agrippa II (whom Josephus claims had written him 62 letters on
points of detail raised by the historians work).52 Mason concentrated
on Josephus assertion that each of these recipients was familiar with
Greek and as such were fitting recipients of a work designed for just
such a readership (Vita 65, 359; C. Ap. 1. 52).53 But there is another
possibility. As long ago as the prologue to the War (1. 22) Josephus
had written: I shall give a precise description of the sufferings of the
prisoners taken in the several towns, from my own observation or
personal share in them. For I shall conceal nothing even of my own
misfortunes, as I shall be addressing persons who are well aware of
them. The passage is I think an indication that Josephus from his
earliest writings in Greek knew himself to be addressing Jewish listeners and readers.54

Mason 2005, 95.

Mason 2005, 96.
Kokkinos 1998, 197 identifies the latter as Herod VII (the last bearer of the name),
son of Aristobulus III (son of Herod of Chalcis). He was a cousin of Agrippa II.
Vita 364366 with Mason 2005, 85.
Mason 2005, 86.
See Mason 1998, 73 on the importance of War 1. 13; 616, where the selfconscious aim of challenging pro-Roman and anti-Jewish histories is established. By
contrast, Sterling 1992, 297308 sees Antiquities as addressed simultaneously to readerships in Greek Diaspora communities, Roman authorities and a Judean readership.
Mason 2003b, 565 n. 27 points out the tendency of Josephus to explain Roman customs


john curran

In fact, with the increasing sophistication of modern scholarly readers of Josephus, we are moving now to a position where it is possible to
recover from his works some of the major issues for his Jewish readership. A digression on the Roman army in the War is justified by the
statement: If I have dwelt at some length on this topic my intention
was not so much to extol the Romans as to console those whom they
have vanquished and to deter others who may be tempted to revolt
(3. 108). It is not difficult to accept that news of the war is indeed
likely to have prompted the deepest despair and grief among pious
Jews of Diaspora communities, Rome included. More significantly, the
events raised issues for groups and individuals about what precisely
had happened but also about the implications for the future.
With regard specifically to the Temple, for example, it is clear that
its loss was a catastrophe for a significant number of Jews in Rome.
How had the God of the Jews allowed the destruction of the Temple to
take place? In a famous passage of the War, Josephus depicts himself
addressing the rebels at Roman bidding and saying: . . . the Deity has
fled from the holy places and taken His stand on the side of those with
whom you are at war (War 5. 412). Elsewhere, Josephus writes explicitly of the god of the Jews co-operating with the Romans (War 6. 38
[Titus speaking]). And notoriously the soldier who set the Temple on
fire was reported by Josephus to have been acting moved by some
divine impulse (War 6. 252).55 At War 6. 299: . . . the priests on entering the inner court of the Temple by night [on the day of Pentecost
(Shabuot)], as was their custom in the discharge of their ministrations,
reported that they were conscious, first of a commotion and a din,
and after, that of a voice as of a host, We are departing hence.56 As
in a work published in Rome (see e.g. Ant. 18. 195; 19. 24) and rightly denies this as
evidence against a Roman audience but overlooks the variegation of that audience.
Parente argues 2005, 6667 that the depiction of this scene in particular was an
effective way of showing that the Romans and Titus in particular were actually impotent and unable to control the fury of their soldiers (itself therefore an instrument of
the Jewish God).
A version of what is pretty clearly the same story in Tac. Histories 13. 1 and Suet.
Vespasian 4. 5 (see Sterns comments in 1980, nos. 281, 312. See also Josephus, War 6.
10910: Who knows not the records of the ancient prophets and that oracle which
threatens this poor city and is even now coming true? For they foretold that it would
be taken whensoever one should begin to slaughter his own countrymen. And is not
the city, aye and the whole Temple, filled with your corpses? God it is then, God himself who with the Romans is bringing the fire to purge His Temple and exterminating
a city so laden with pollutions. Parente 2005, 68 n. 49 observes (contra Thackerys

flavius josephus in rome


Parente has recently suggested, Josephus aim here was to demonstrate

to Jews that the destruction of the Temple could not have been avoided
and that its destruction was Gods will.57 There was therefore no reason
to seek revenge. It is clear then that there were other interpretations
of the destruction in circulation, in particular a version that passed on
into rabbinic circles and subsequent notoriety that the wicked Titus
had deliberately destroyed the Temple and desecrated it in vile ways.58
With regard to the rebels, one of Josephus most famously and
energetically pursued themes is his depiction of them as fanatics and
irresponsible villains, noting especially the suggestion that they had
repeatedly behaved in a depraved or sacrilegious fashion.59 As Price
has pointed out, Josephus is to be considered as acutely unreliable
over some of these details but what is important here is that he felt it
important to put his views into circulation with a Jewish audience and
listeners.60 There were clearly other interpretations abroad.
More ambitiously, a quite separate project in both War and (much
more extensively) Antiquities was no less than a paraphrase of the
Bible, an undertaking which Spilsbury has recently described as central to his construction of identity both for himself and for his entire
community.61 But in both works the project is rather more than a
paraphrase as has of course long been known; it is highly worked and
edited in significant ways.62 In War for example, Abraham becomes, in
Spilsburys words a pious pacifist.63 Moving to the Antiquities, Spilsbury and others have noted the absence in Josephus work of the Covenant between the Jewish people and their God with regard to a land
to live in. Betsy Amaru has interpreted the absence as a quite deliberate editing designed to exclude the kind of land theology that seemed
to inspire some of the rebels in the war with Rome.64 Judaism itself on

original note ad loc.) that the prophecy in question cannot have been Sibylline. See
too Parente 2000, 37 n. 55.
Parente 2005, 67. Cf. too Josephus David, made to say at Antiquities 7. 373: [I]t
is not such a terrible thing to serve even a foreign master, if God so wills.
See especially b. Gittin 56b; Lev. Rab. 22, 3; Abot de Rabbi Natan (B) 20. Parente
2005, 69 n. 50 thought that these stories derived from a single source.
Parente 2005, 5257. Good analysis too in Price 1992, 14459.
Price 1992, 150 with regard to allegations of torture in War 5. 4335.
Spilsbury 2005, 211.
See especially Feldman 1998a and 1998b.
Spilsbury 2005, 213. Cf. Gen 14. 14 and War 5. 38082.
Amaru 198081.


john curran

this view no longer had land at its heart. It had necessarily become
centred on the Torah, see particularly Moses farewell message to his
people: I am leaving you myself, rejoicing in your happiness, committing you to the sober guidance of the laws, to the ordered scheme of
the constitution (politeia) and to the virtues of those chiefs (strategoi)
who will take thought for your interests (Antiquities 4. 184).65
Spilsbury detected what he thought was the influence of Roman
social conventions in Josephus re-casting of the relationship between
God and the Jews, especially in the presentation of God and the Jews as
patron and client.66 But this should not detract from the overwhelming
self-conscious Jewishness of the fundamental ideas. By contrast, elsewhere Josephus mentions a number of Jewish institutions and does not
soften their impact on Roman sensibilities. This is especially the case
with circumcision as a distinctive sign of Jewish identity.67 According
to Spilsbury: it would seem that Josephus gave up explicit references
to a covenant in order to make space on the margins of Roman discourse for an affirmation of Gods commitment to the Jews.68 While
Spilsbury is certainly right to locate the subject of such a debate on
the margins of Roman intellectual life, it was central to many of the
Jews of Rome.
And as for Josephus meditations on the politeia of the Jews, learned
Gentiles were indeed interested in the question, but its importance
for post-war Temple-less Jews in Rome was of an altogether different order. The suggestion made by Morton Smith that Josephus was
an advocate for the interests or rabbinism at Yavneh has rightly been
set aside;69 but in reflecting upon Josephus and his Roman context,
I suggest that Josephus with some sophistication took the opportunity provided by a humane patron to speak to a number of different audiences in the empires capital. His interested Jewish listeners


And cf. Antiquities 1. 14 for a strong statement on the danger to those who
depart from well-founded and framed laws: . . . the main thing to be learned from
this history by any who care to peruse it is that men who conform to the will of God,
and do not venture to transgress laws that have been excellently laid down, prosper
in all things beyond belief, and for their reward are offered by God felicity; whereas
in proportion as they depart from the strict observance of these laws, things (else)
practicable become impracticable, and whatever imaginary good thing they strive to
do ends in irretrievable disasters.
Spilsbury 2005, 218.
Antiquities 8. 262. Cf. Apion 1. 171.
Spilsbury (2005, 221).
Smith 1956 and Cohen 1987.

flavius josephus in rome


were people confronting issues of the deepest significance for their

identity, values and destiny. To these people Josephus offered a future
based upon a distinctive interpretation of the past. The ideal government of the Jews was to be provided by a credible and pious Jewish
aristokrateia, as it had been in the most successful periods of Jewish
history.70 A future, in other words, under the guidance and supervision
of people like Josephus himself.
There is clear evidence, furthermore, that some interested Gentiles
noticed this discourse within Roman Judaism. Two pieces of evidence
in particular are noteworthy: Fergus Millar in examining the relationship between Epictetus and the imperial court duly reported the
expulsion of the philosopher from Rome along with other individuals
in probably 923.71 Epictetus went as far as Nicopolis in Epirus, but
Millar was struck by how prominent meditations and memories on
life in Rome were in his discourses during this period.72 Interestingly
enough, Epictetus master during his life in Rome was one Epaphroditus, a character depicted so unflatteringly differently from Josephus
patron that many do not believe them to have been the same man,
although it is at the very least a striking coincidence.73 In Arrians version of one of Epictetus lectures, he had the philosopher ask:
Why, then, do you call yourself a Stoic, why do you deceive the multitude, why do you act the part of a Jew, when you are a Greek? Do
you not see in what sense men are severally called Jew, Syrian, or Egyptian? For example, whenever we see a man halting between two faiths
(epamfoterizonta), we are in the habit of saying He is not a Jew, he is
only acting the part. But when he adopts the attitude of mind of the
man who has been baptised and has made his choice, then he is both a
Jew in fact and is also called one. So we also are counterfeit baptists,
ostensibly Jews, but in reality something else, not in sympathy with our
own reason, far from applying the principles which we profess, yet priding ourselves upon them as being men who know them (Epict. Diss. 2.
9. 1921).

To some older readers of the passage above, Epictetus was confusing Judaism with Christianity. But as Menahem Stern pointed out,


See especially, Mason 2003b, 57781.

Millar 1965, 142.
Millar 1965, 142: Even Stoics are human and one cannot but note how often
Epictetus mind turned to Rome and Roman life which he had left some fifteen years
Jones 2005, 20607.


john curran

immersion is indeed talked about in rabbinic materials as one of the

indications of interest in Judaism (the others being circumcision and
sacrifice).74 Epictetus was not confused. I believe that he had seen
with his own eyes people in Rome who called themselves Jews but
expressed their Judaism in different ways. (Famously of course, so had
Paul of Tarsus as early as the 50s ce, his Letter to the Romans 2. 259,
reflecting on the relative significance of the physical signs of Judaism
compared to adherence to the Law).
But another person who noticed this discourse about and within
Judaism was the emperor Domitian. As we have seen, he construed
in some of the activities of persons interested in the subject of Judaism a threat to himself, convenient or otherwise. There has been a
frequent tendency as we have seen to interpret the deaths of Clemens
and Domitilla as a radical solution to a political problem, all masked
behind a defence of Roman religio. Eusebius of Caesarea wrote up
most of these enquiries into Judaism as early forays into Christianity.
But not all. In his Ecclesiastical History he preserved a fragment of the
earlier writer Hegesippus ( fl. 100180, author of acts of the church of
some kind):
The . . . emperor [Domitian] ordered the execution of all who were of
Davids line, and there is an old and firm tradition that a group of heretics
accused the family of Judethe brother, humanly speaking, of the Saviouron the ground that they were of Davids line and related to Christ
Himself. This is stated by Hegesippus in so many words: And there still
survived of the Lords family the grandsons of Jude, who was said to be
his brother, humanly speaking. These were informed against as being of
Davids line, and brought by the evocatus before Domitian Caesar, who
was as afraid of the advent of Christ as Herod had been. Domitian asked
them whether they were descended from David, and they admitted it.
Then he asked them what property they owned and what funds they had
at their disposal. They replied that they had only 9,000 denarii between
them, half belonging to each; this, they said, was not available in cash
but was the estimate value of only twenty-five acres of land from which
they raised the money to pay their taxes and the wherewithal to support
themselves by their own toil. [Eusebius continues] Then . . . they showed
him their hands, putting forward as proof of their toil the hardness of
their bodies and the calluses impressed on their hands by incessant
labour. When asked about Christ and His Kingdomwhat it was like,
and where and when it would appearthey explained that it was not of


Stern 1976, 54344 n. 254.

flavius josephus in rome


this world or anywhere on earth but angelic and in heaven, and would
be established at the end of the world, when He would come in glory to
judge the quick and the dead and give every man payment according to
his conduct. On hearing this, Domitian found no fault with them but
despising them as beneath his notice let them go free and issued orders
terminating the persecution of the Church (HE 3. 19. 120. 5).75

Beneath the all-too-clear Christian apology is clearly an imperial

enquiry into Jewish kingship or messianism, or leadership, or all three
together as a consequence of detectable discourse within the Jewish
community, a discourse demonstrably visible in the career and writings of Josephus himself.
It may be time even to revisit one last and frequently forgotten passage: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3. 9. 2: [Josephus] was the most
famous Jew of that time, not only among his fellow countrymen but
also among the Romans, so that he was honoured by the erection of
a statue in the city of Rome, and the inclusion of works composed by
him in its library. Cotton and Eck noted the reference but remained
resolutely sceptical: It is difficult to know whether [Eusebius] testimony is to be taken seriously, intriguing though it is to wonder who
would have been responsible for such a statue, had one really been
erected.76 Having reviewed some of the most significant evidence for
Josephus in Rome we might be able to provide an answer. Josephus
was indeed a famous Jew in Rome. Above all, his fame was located
where Eusebius locates it: among his fellow Jews. Given what we have
examined, it seems not impossible that some of these admirers and
interlocutors might indeed have honoured with a statue a man whom
they thought had contributed for fully a generation a most committed
voice to the specifically Jewish Roman exploration of the implications
of the destruction of the Temple.

Barnes 1968, 35. He conceded here that there was no evidence any anti-Christian
legislation but I am suggesting an intervention by the emperor on quite separate
grounds. See also Barnes 1971, 105 on the evidence as a fiction but its details not as
implausible as suggested. The question of authenticity of the report still open according to Lane Fox 1986, 433 and accepted as recently as Sartre 2005, 423 n. 130.
Cotton and Eck 2005, 38 n. 4. Mason 1998, 77 also sceptical.


john curran

Many historians have concentrated so closely on the personality, biography and condition of texts emanating from Flavius Josephus that
they have overlooked valuable information on the world in which he
lived after the Jewish War.
The destruction of the temple and the deportation and displacement
of thousands of former combatants stimulated a discourse within Judaism on the character and mission of Jews in the world. Some of this
thinking took place openly in Rome. It drew in individual and influential Jews of the highest standing and authority and it may even have
attracted thoughtful and reflective members of the upper class of the
city. The works of Josephus are not, therefore, an irrelevant monument
to literary self-indulgence but a surviving part of this historic exploration of the significance of the war and its aftermath for Judaism. And
rather than speculating (or fantasising) about whether Josephus was a
lonely old man at Rome or not, it is time we realised that he was not
alone in looking at these questions.

Alfldi, G. 1995. Eine Bauinschrift aus dem Colosseum. ZPE 109: 195226.
Amaru, Betsy H. 198081. Land Theology in Josephus Jewish Antiquities. JQR n.s. 71:
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Beard, M. 2003. The Triumph of Flavius Josephus. Pages 54358 in Flavian Rome:
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Berber, C. 1997. Ein Bild des Judentums fr Nichtjuden von Flavius Josephus: Untersuchungen zu seiner Schrift Contra Apionem (AGAJU 40). Leiden: Brill.
Boyle, Anthony J., Dominik, William J., eds. 2003. Flavian Rome: Culture, Image, Text.
Leiden: Brill.
Cohen, Shaye J. D. 1987. Respect for Judaism by Gentiles According to Josephus.
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Coleman, Kathleen M. 1986. The Emperor Domitian and Literature. ANRW II.32.5:
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J. Edmonson, S. Mason, J. B. Rives. Oxford: OUP.
Edmondson, J. Mason, S. Rives, J. B. eds. 2005. Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome.
Oxford: OUP.
Feldman, Louis H., ed. 1998. Studies in Josephus Rewritten Bible (Supplements to the
Journal for the Study of Judaism). Leiden: Brill.
. 1998. Josephus Interpretation of the Bible. Berkeley: University of California

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. 1993. Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World: Attitudes and Interactions from
Alexander to Justinian. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Feldman, Louis H., Hata, G. eds. 1987. Josephus, Judaism and Christianity Detroit:
Wayne State University.
Goodman, Martin D. 2005. The Fiscus Judaicus and Gentile Attitudes to Judaism in
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and J. Sievers. Leiden: Brill.
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mirror Domitians crushing of the Stoic Opposition? Pages 297316 in Josephus
and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by J. Sievers and G. Lembi.
Leiden: Brill.
Jones, Christopher P. 2005. Josephus and Greek Literature in Flavian Rome. Pages
200208 in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by J. Edmonson, S. Mason,
J. B. Rives. Oxford: OUP.
Kokkinos, N. 1998. The Herodian Dynasty: origins, role in society and eclipse (Journal
for the study of the Pseudepigrapha supplement series 30). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Mader, G. 2000. Josephus and the Politics of Historiography: Apologetic and Impression
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Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by J. Sievers, G. Lembi. Leiden: Brill.
. 2003a. Life of Josephus. Translation and Commentary. Leiden: Brill.
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Niclas Frster

Die Ereignisse des ersten jdischen Kriegs gegen die rmische Herrschaft sind ein tiefer Einschnitt in der Geschichte des jdischen
Volks. Die Folgen wie z.B. die Zerstrung des Tempels in Jerusalem
beeinflussen in gewisser Weise bis in die Gegenwart die Entwicklung des Judentums und auch des Christentums. Unsere wichtigste
Informationsquelle ber Ursachen, Verlauf und Nachwirkungen dieses Aufstands sind die Werke des jdischen Historikers Flavius Josephus. Vor allem in seinem Geschichtswerk Der Jdische Krieg aber
auch in seinem zweiten Hauptwerk, den Jdischen Altertmern, hat
er sich zu diesem Thema geuert. In beiden Werken geht er auf die
jdische Widerstandsbewegung gegen die rmische Herrschaft ein
und schildert ausfhrlich die lange Vorgeschichte, die zum Ausbruch
des verheerenden Kriegs im Jahr 68 n. Chr. fhrte.1
Ein wichtiger Wendepunkt in dieser Entwicklung, die sich ber
Jahrzehnte anbahnte, war in den Augen des Josephus der Aufstand
des Judas Galilaeus, auf den er in seinen Errterungen in beiden historischen Werken eingeht und den er explizit als die Wurzel alles kommenden Unheils bezeichnet.2

Zu Judas Galilaeus und seinem Aufstand gegen die rmische Herrschaft s.
M. Black 1974, 4554; M. Hengel 1976, 79149.
Josephus hebt in Ant. 18.6 ausdrcklich hervor, da es kein bel gebe, das nicht
aus diesen Mnnern erwuchs (Text: L. H. Feldman 1965, 6): ,
, d.h. aus Judas und seinem Verbndeten Saddok
dem Phariser.


niclas frster
Judas Galilaeus bei Josephus

Die blutigen Auseinandersetzungen mit den Rmern nahmen ihren

Anfang, als Archelaos, ein Sohn des Knigs Herodes, im Jahr 6 n. Chr.
als Ethnarch abgesetzt wurde und die Landesteile Juda und Samaria in eine rmische Provinz umgewandelt wurden. Bedeutsam ist in
diesem Zusammenhang, da auf Veranlassung des Statthalters Quirinius ein Zensus als Grundlage der Steuerveranlagung durch die Rmer
durchgefhrt wurde.3 Dabei wurde das Land vermessen, und Einwohnerlisten fr die Steuereinnehmer erstellt. Dies waren die Voraussetzungen fr die Erhebung von Grund- und Kopfsteuern, wie sowohl
Josephus als auch die Angaben im Neuen Testament besttigen (Apg
5:37).4 Gegen diese Vorbereitungen der Rmer zur Steuererhebung
richtete sich der jdische Widerstand unter Fhrung von Judas dem
sog. Galiler. ber die Motive des Judas macht Josephus nur wenige
Angaben. Er teilt lediglich mit, Judas habe die Juden gegen die Rmer
aufgehetzt: . . . indem er es fr einen Frevel erklrte, wenn sie bei der
Steuerzahlung an die Rmer bleiben und nach Gott irgendwelche
sterblichen Gebieter auf sich nehmen wrden.5 Diese Bemerkung
zeigt, da das Akzeptieren jeglicher menschlichen Regierung, und das
bedeutete insbesondere die Unterwerfung unter die rmische Herrschaft ( , War 2.433), nach
Ansicht des Judas ein Versto gegen die Fundamente der jdischen
Religion war. Denselben Gedanken wiederholte Josephus in seinem
Parallelbericht in den Jdischen Altertmern, in dem er erneut auf
Judas zu sprechen kommt. Auerdem teilt er mit, da Judas im Bndnis mit Sadduk, einem Anhnger der Phariser, gehandelt habe und
die Meinung vertrat: die Schtzung bringe nichts anderes als offenbare
Knechtschaft mit sich.6 Darum habe er seine Landsleute aufgerufen,
ihre Freiheit zu verteidigen. Gott sollte demnach als einziger Souvern
des jdischen Volks betrachtet werden. Jede Form der Anerkennung

Material zu diesem Initialzensus findet sich gesammelt bei P. Schrmbges 1987,

3132; ferner Pastor 1997, 138.
Lukas schreibt an diesen Stellen von und
datiert den Aufstand des Judas damit in die Zeit der Zensusregistrierung, d.h.
; dazu G. Schneider 1980, 401; R. Pesch 1995, 219 vgl. berdies Lk 2:15.
War 2.118 (Text und bersetzung: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1962, 20405):
. . . ,
. vgl. War 2.433.
Ant. 18.4 (Text: L. H. Feldman 1965, 46):

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


menschlicher Herrscher msse strikt, notfalls unter dem Einsatz von

Gewalt, abgewehrt werden. Wir drfen daher annehmen, da Judas
die Unterwerfung unter menschliche Herrscher als Versto gegen das
erste Gebot des Dekalogs betrachtete. Aus diesem Grund waren er
und seine Anhnger bereit, sich gegen die Steuerzahlungen an den
rmischen Staat zu wehren, durch die der rmische Kaiser als legitim
akzeptiert wurde. Wer sich jedoch im Rahmen des Zensus durch die
rmischen Behrden registrieren und sein Vermgen einschtzen liess,
der unterstellte sich in den Augen des Judas durch diesen Rechtsakt
der rmischen Herrschaft, war dadurch als Nicht-Jude zu betrachten
und konnte seines Eigentums beraubt werden, was Josephus an anderer Stelle fast beilufig erwhnt.7 Entscheidend ist hierbei die Wortwahl
des Josephus: Demzufolge kam es Judas darauf an, den Unterschied
()8 zwischen Juden und Heiden klar zu markieren, den der
rmische Zensus geradezu einebne und das Gebiet des Archelaos zu
einem Teil des rmischen Reichs mache.9 Diese Sichtweise legitmierte
fr Judas die Gewaltanwendung gegen seine jdischen Landsleute. Das
Anznden ihrer Huser10 war aus diesem Grund nach seiner berzeugung vollkommen gerechtfertigt, weil sie sich aktiv an der Aufhebung
dieser Trennung beteiligten und mithalfen, die Unterschiede zwischen
Juden und Nicht-Juden zu verwischen.
Diese religisen Hintergrnde des Aufstands werden von Josephus
also nicht verschwiegen. Er rckte sie aber bewut nicht in das Zentrum seiner Darstellung, sondern beschrnkte sich auf einige kurze
Notizen, die die religisen Motive des Judas und seiner Gruppe in
ihrer fundamentalen Bedeutung eher herunterspielten. Fr diese
Form der Verschleierung der wirklichen Sachverhalte war hchstwahrscheinlich sein apologetisches Interesse leitend. Josephus wollte
wohl das durch den jdischen Krieg ohnehin gespannte Verhltnis zu
den Rmern nicht zustzlich dadurch belasten, da er die jdische
Religion als Grund der blutigen Auseinandersetzungen herausstellte.11

War 7.255 (Text: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1969, 120): . . . .
. . .. Josephus berichtet in diesem Zusammenhang ber

Eleazar, der an der Spitze der Sikarier die Festung Massada gegen die Rmer verteidigte und ein Nachkomme des Judas war. Dabei erzhlt er in einem kurzen, exkursartigen Rckblick ber Judas und dessen Aufstand gegen die rmische Herrschaft.
War 7.255 (Text: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1969, 120).
Nikiprowetzky 1989, 226.
War 7.255 (Text: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1969, 120)
; s. dazu Baumbach 1985, 100.
Drexler 1925, 287; Hengel 1976, 76; Mader 2000, 13.


niclas frster

Daher teilte er die religisen Beweggrnde der Aufstndischen nur

dann mit, wenn ihre Erwhnung fr den Fortgang seiner Darstellung
unerllich war. Zugleich betonte er jedoch, da die Anhngerschaft
des Judas den anderen Juden in nichts glich.12 Somit konnte er einem
heidnischen Leserkreis Judas als Auenseiter, der sich auerhalb der
jdischen Tradition bewegte, hinstellen und seine jdischen Landsleute auf diese Weise gegen Vorurteile und Unterstellungen in Schutz
nehmen. Geschickt erweckte er ebenfalls den Eindruck, da nur eine
kleine Minderheit in Opposition zu den Rmern stand, die mit den
religisen berzeugungen der jdischen Mehrheit nichts gemein habe.
Auerdem stellt Josephus in seinen Jdischen Altertmern ausfhrlich klar, da Judas und seine Anhnger fr alle weiteren Unruhen,
Morde und letztlich auch fr die Zerstrung des Tempels verantwortlich waren (Ant. 18.68). Hierbei unterstreicht er, da Judas und Saddok eine bisher unbekannte Philosophie13 verbreiteten. Dies geschah
nicht zufllig, denn es hebt eine Trennung zum brigen Judentum
hervor. An anderer Stelle widerspricht er allerdings seiner Einschtzung, wenn er Judas eine in allen brigen Punkten mit den Pharisern
gemeinsame Lehre unterstellt.14 Zu diesem diffusen Bild, das durch
apologetische Rcksichtsnahmen verzerrt ist, pat auch, da Josephus
die Unterdrckung des durch Judas angestachelten Aufstands bergeht. Er berliefert lediglich, da der Hohepriester die Mehrheit der
Juden berzeugte, sich dem rmischen Zensus zu unterziehen. Daneben hebt er die brgerkriegshnlichen Unruhen, Morde und bergriffe hervor, bei denen Juden ganz in der Weise, als seien sie Feinde
( ),15 behandelt wurden, was Josephus nur
als Vorboten knftigen Unheils interpretierte (Ant 18.7). Im Blick auf
das Ende des Aufstands des Judas oder die Reaktion des rmischen
Staates gibt Josephus in diesem Zusammenhang keine Auskunft. Nur
Lukas berliefert uns in der Apostelgeschichte, da Judas gettet und

War 2.118 (Text und bersetzung: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1962, 20405):
; vgl. Rasp 1924, 33; Wei 1979, 422, 425; Nikiprowetzky 1989, 226; Mason 1991, 121; Schwartz 1992, 130; Fairchild 1999, 523; Mader
2000, 12.
Ant. 18.9 (Text: L. H. Feldman 1965, 8): .
Ant. 18.23 (Text: L. H. Feldman 1965, 20):
War 7.254; vgl. Price 1992, 20. Bei dem Widerstand des Judas handelte es sich
aus diesem Grund sicherlich nicht um gewaltlose Aktionen gegen die rmische Regierung, anders Horsley 1987, 89.

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


seine Anhnger zerstreut wurden.16 Interessant ist aber, da Josephus

betont, die von Judas und dem Phariser Saddok gegrndete Gruppe
habe mit ihrer strikten Lebensweise als eine eigenstndige Bewegung
fortbestanden und sich keineswegs nach einiger Zeit wieder von selbst
aufgelst. Allerdings gibt Josephus dieser Gruppierung keinen Namen,
sondern nennt sie (War 2.118) oder
(Ant. 18.23). Nur einmal bezeichnet er ihre Anhnger als
Sikarier (War 2.254). Wichtig fr unsere Errterungen ist jedoch, da
Josephus fr Judas hufig den Beinamen der Galiler verwendete,17
obwohl er wute, da er aus Gamla in der Gaulanitis stammte (Ant.
18.4) und seiner Herkunft nach gar kein Galiler war. Offensichtlich
hatte er diesen Beinamen wegen seines bevorzugten Wirkungskreises
in diesem Landesteil erhalten.18

Das jdische Bilderverbot in christlich-patristischen Quellen

Die folgende Untersuchung soll die Darlegungen des Josephus durch
bisher wenig beachtetes Quellenmaterial ergnzen und die religisen
Beweggrnde der Aufstndischen strker ins Licht rcken. Dafr werden in einem ersten Schritt Notizen christlicher Autoren herangezogen, die in der bisherigen Forschung wenig beachtet und von vielen
Forschern sogar ganz bergangen wurden. Gerade diese bisher kaum
erforschten Texte knnen aber das von Josephus gezeichnete Bild
wesentlich erweitern und zur Klrung der religisen Hintergrnde des
von Judas entfachten Widerstands beitragen. Dafr infrage kommen
in erster Linie zwei Quellen, die fr die religisen Implikationen des
jdischen Widerstands aufschlureich sind.
Es handelt sich um einen Abschnitt aus dem antihretischen Werk
des Hippolyt, der zeitweise Bischof von Rom war und sein Kompendium wohl in den Jahren nach 222 n. Chr verfate.19 Sein hauptschliches Ziel war die Widerlegung bestimmter christlicher Gruppen wie
der Gnostiker, wofr er zahlreiches Quellenmaterial heranzog.


Apg 5:37: .
So z.B. in Ant 18.6; 20.102.
Anders: Smith 1971, 15.
Zur Datierung des groen antignostischen Werks des Hippolyt sowie zur Person
des Kirchenvaters und dem Schisma mit Pontianus, der sich ebenfalls als Bischof von
Rom betrachtete, vgl. Drobner 1994, 10001; Suchla 1999, 298.


niclas frster

Dazu kommt als zweiter patristischer Text das Traktat eines anonymen, sptantiken Autors des beginnenden 5. Jahrhunderts, der ein
sehr kurz gefates Opus ber die Hretiker schrieb und darin u.a.
Nachrichten ber mehrere jdische Gruppen aufnahm. Diese kleine
Schrift mit dem Titel Indiculus de haeresibus wurde spter in das
umfangreiche vre des Hieronymus eingeordnet, ist aber sicherlich
nicht von diesem berhmten Theologen verfat worden. Sie war allerdings schon Augustin bekannt, der in seinem 428/429 entstandenen
Buch De haeresibus ad Quodvultdeum daraus zitiert, ohne nach eigenem Bekunden den Verfasser zu kennen.20 Der Indiculus de haeresibus
selbst enthlt knapp gehaltene Mitteilungen ber diverse hretische
Gruppen. Fr unser Thema ist besonders interessant, da diesem
Buch als eine Art Einleitung ein kleines Kapitel ber jdische Gruppen vorangestellt ist, das in modernen Editionen wenige Druckzeilen
umfat. Auch scheint es in der handschriftlichen berlieferung von
den nachfolgenden Passagen mit der Darstellung christlicher hretischer Gruppen durch eine eigene berschrift deutlich abgegrenzt
gewesen zu sein,21 was ich im Rahmen einer noch ausstehenden Neuedition dieses Textes untersuchen werde.22
Die Ausfhrungen ber jdische Gruppen im Indiculus de haeresibus lassen sich m.E. auf christliche Theologen des 2. Jh. n. Chr.
zurckfhren, die mit der politischen Situation und den religisen
Verhltnissen in Palstina bekannt waren und als vertrauenswrdige
Zeitzeugen zu erachten sind. Es berrascht daher nicht, da sie ber
das Judentum ihrer Zeit und seine diversen Strmungen bis hin zu den
religisen Hintergrnden der Aufstnde gegen die Rmer gut unterrichtet waren. Ihre Texte drfte Pseudo-Hieronymus im Indiculus de
haeresibus als Vorlage benutzt haben. Er hat sie jedoch stark verkrzt
und in so wenigen Worten referiert, da man im Hinblick auf seine
Ausfhrungen fast von einer Art Telegrammstil sprechen knnte.
In einem zweiten Schritt werde ich die Mitteilungen von Hippolyt und Pseudo-Hieronymus mit Nachrichten rabbinischer Quellen vergleichen, die die berlieferungen dieser Autoren besttigen.
Augustin zitiert die Passage im Kontext seiner Ausfhrungen ber die Gruppe
der Luciferianer, die nur der Autor des Indiculus unter die Hretiker gezhlt habe:
Apud quemdam tamen, cuius nomen in eodem eius opusculo non inveni, in haereticis Luciferianos positos legi per haec verba . . ., PL 42, 1841, 45.
Die berschrift in der handschriftlichen berlieferung lautete: S. Hieronymi De
haeresibus Iudaeorum vgl. die Erstedition von C. Menard bei hler 1856, 283.
Diese Edition ist in Vorbereitung. Sie wird Teil meiner Studie ber Jesus und die
Steuerfrage sein, die in Krze publiziert werden wird.

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


Auch einige kurze Anmerkungen des Josephus ber das Bilderverbot

bekrftigen ihre Zuverlssigkeit. Zugleich werden seine Bemerkungen
in ihrer ganzen Tragweite durch diese patristischen Nachrichten verstndlich, denn sie erhellen die vom jdischen Geschichtsschreiber
bergangenen, aber zum vollen Verstndnis unverzichtbaren, religisen Hintergrnde des jdischen Widerstands gegen die Rmer. Dazu
kommt, da das einschlgige rabbinische Material ebenfalls durch die
patristischen Notizen in einem anderen Licht erscheint, weil sie uns
ermglichen, die implizite Auseinandersetzung rabbinischer Gelehrter
mit den spezifischen berzeugungen und den Torainterpretationen
der romfeindlichen Aufrhrer zu verstehen, die im Kontext rabbinischer Debatten offenbar vorausgesetzt bzw. bercksichtigt wurden,
ohne aber immer explizit als die Positionen dieser politisch gefhrlichen Gruppen gekennzeichnet zu seien.

Hippolyts Refutatio omnium haeresium

Hippolyt hat in seinem Werk Refutatio omnium haeresium einen langen Abschnitt ber die Juden aufgenommen, der zu einem groen Teil
ein fast wrtliches Exzerpt einschlgiger Josephustexte darstellt und
auf dessen Essenerkapitel fut. An einigen Stellen ergnzte er seine
Vorlage um weitere Informationen, die u.a. die Zeloten betrafen und
anderen Quellen entnommen sind.23
In diesem Zusammenhang sei darauf hingewiesen, da man auf diesen Hippolyttext in der Josephusforschung gelegentlich schon hingewiesen hat und der Konnex zu den Zeloten ebenfalls bereits bemerkt
wurde; den genauen Quellenzusammenhngen, den weiteren Parallelen in der christlichen Literatur und dem rabbinischen Vergleichsmaterial wurde jedoch bisher noch nie grndlich nachgegangen.24 Dies
ist umso erstaunlicher, als sich relativ eindeutig nachweisen lt, da
Hippolyts Darlegungen in dieser Passage nicht mit den Essenern in
Zusammenhang gebracht werden knnen. In seinen Exzerpten weist
er sogar an einer Stelle expressis verbis auf die Zeloten oder Sikarier
als Vertreter der von ihm referierten berzeugungen hin.25

Haer. IX 26, 13.

Vgl. vor allem die Studien von Black 1956, 174; Smith 1958, 28283; Burchard
1977, 24, 2122; Fairchild 1999, 52426.
Haer. IX 26, 2 (Text: Marcovich 1986, 371, 1112): ,


niclas frster

Diesen Wechsel im Rahmen seiner Ausfhrungen hat Hippolyt

allerdings fr seine Leser in keiner Weise kenntlich gemacht. Mglicherweise hatte er beim Ordnen seiner Exzerpte nicht beachtet, da
er Informationen verarbeitete, die den Essenern gar nicht zuzuordnen
waren. Darum fgte er die betreffende Textpassage in einen Zusammenhang ein, den er mehr oder minder wrtlich von Josephus bernommen hatte. Im Verlauf dieses Exkurses ber die Essener, den Hippolyt
als seine Quelle verwendete, teilt Josephus mit, da sich die essenische
Gruppe in mehrere Fraktionen gespalten habe und bemerkt dazu: Sie
sind ja nach der Dauer ihrer frommen bung in vier Stnde geteilt.26
Wahrscheinlich meinte Josephus damit die Reinheitsunterschiede zwischen den frher und spter eingetretenen Gruppenmitgliedern, die
die frher Hinzugekommenen zu rituellen Waschungen veranlaten,
wenn sie von den zu einem spteren Zeitpunkt Beigetretenen berhrt
wurden.27 Diese Angaben verstand Hippolyt als Hinweis auf eine
Spaltung der Essener in vier verschiedene Fraktionen, die sich in ihrer
Lebensweise unterschieden, wobei er die zeitliche Differenzierung, die
Josephus erwhnt ( ) nicht als Abstufungen
innerhalb der Essener begriff, sondern als fundamentale Differenzen
( )28 zwischen unterschiedlichen
jdischen Parteien auffate, wobei die spter entstandenen in ihrer
Rigorositt von den frheren abwichen, die nur einen niederen Grad
erreicht htten ( <>).29
Um diese Divergenzen zu illustrieren, die die Alten ( )30
von spter Entstandenen trennten, setzte Hippolyt Material aus anderen Quellen hinzu, das jdische Gruppen wie u.a. die Zeloten betraf.
Wie der Kirchenvater einleitend versichert, berichtete er von Juden,
die ber das ntige Ma ( ())31 religise
Regeln einhalten. Die Nahtstellen, an denen Hippolyt die einzelnen,
von ihm exzerpierten Quellenstcke zusammenfgte, berdeckte er
auf schriftstellerisch recht mechanische Weise, indem er jeweils von

War 2.150: (Text und bersetzung: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1962, 210):
. . ..
War 2.150 (Text und bersetzung: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1962, 210):

, ,
. O. Michel und O. Bauernfeind verweisen als Beleg fr eine Tren-

nung verschiedener Stufen von Mitgliedern in der Qumrangruppe auf 1QS 5,1320.
Haer. IX 26, 1 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 12).
Haer. IX 26, 3 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 1314); vgl. dazu Burchard 1977, 30.
Haer. IX 26, 3 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 14).
Haer. IX 26, 1 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 3).

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


Anderen () sprach,32 die Vertreter der von ihm mitgeteilten

religisen Praxis seien. Die auf diese Weise entstandene, recht konfuse Exzerptensammlung, die der Kirchenvater aus unterschiedlichen
Quellen zusammengetragen hatte, lt sich jedoch entwirren und auf
ihre Ursprnge zurckfhren, wenn man alle Angaben Hippolyts als
Nachrichten ber eine jdische Opposition gegen die rmische Herrschaft betrachtet, zu der auch die Zeloten und Sikarier zhlten.
Fr unsere Fragestellung ist dabei von Wichtigkeit, da Hippolyt
gleich am Anfang seiner Zustze zum Josephustext die Ablehnung
rmischer Mnzen wegen der auf ihnen aufgeprgten Herrscherbilder erwhnt.33 Dann kommt er auf das Verbot zu sprechen, das es
einigen Juden unmglich mache, durch Stadttore, auf denen schmkkende Bildwerke aufgestellt waren, hindurchzugehen.34 Bei beiden
Angaben ist derselbe biblische Hintergrund, d.h. das alttestamentliche
Bilderverbot,35 anzunehmen. Ferner finden sich in diesem Abschnitt
noch Mitteilungen ber die Zwangsbeschneidung von Heiden, die sich
ffentlich mit der Tora beschftigten und die von Zeloten, die von
einigen aber Sikarier genannt werden36 mit dem Tod bedroht wurden, wenn sie sich nicht beschneiden lieen.37 Abschlieend erwhnt
Hippolyt, da sich diese jdische Oppositionsbewegung geweigert
habe, den rmischen Kaiser ihren Herrn zu nennen (
), was im Kern der oben behandelten Josephuspassage ber die Anhnger des Judas Galilaeus entspricht.38

Hippolyts Angaben ber das Bilderverbot

Da es in dieser Studie zu weit fhren wrde, den gesamten, inhaltlich
sehr aufschlureichen Hippolyttext zu analysieren, werde ich nun die
Nachricht ber den Boykott rmischer Mnzen und die Weigerung
durch mit Statuen geschmckte Tore hindurchzugehen, diskutieren.


Haer. IX 26, 13 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 2.6.12).

Haer. IX 26, 1 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 24).
Haer. IX 26, 1 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 46).
Vgl. Ex 20:35.23; Dtr 4:1519.23.2526; 5:69; 27:15.
Haer. IX 26, 2 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 11).
Haer. IX 26, 2 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 611).
Ant. 18.24 (Text: Feldman 1965, 2022): . . .
. . .. Hippolyt formuliert allerdings ganz anders:
. . ., was mglicherweise mit einer anderen Vorlage erklrt werden kann.


niclas frster

Hierzu vermerkt Hippolyt:39 Die einen berschreiten die Vorschriften in dem Mae, da sie nicht einmal eine Mnze anrhren mit der
Begrndung, man drfe ein Bild weder tragen noch ansehen noch verfertigen. Sie gehen auch in keine Stadt, auf da keiner durch ein Tor
schreite, auf dem Bildsulen stnden, denn sie halten es fr gegen das
Gesetz, unter Bildwerken durchzugehen. Diese Passage zeigt, da es
dem Kirchenvater um eine bestimmte jdische Gruppierung ging, die
nach seiner Ansicht ber das ntige Ma40 hinausging, wobei er an
eine radikale Lebenspraxis dachte. Man kann davon ausgehen, da er
das biblische Bilderverbot im Auge hatte. Offensichtlich leiteten die
von Hippolyt in den Blick genommenen Juden aus den entsprechenden biblischen Weisungen in einer besonders strikten Interpretation
die berzeugung ab, rmisches Geld berhaupt nicht verwenden zu
drfen. Entscheidend fr ihre Weigerung waren die auf den Mnzen aufgeprgten Bilder des regierenden Kaisers und andere bildliche
Darstellungen. Solche Bilder drfe man laut Hippolyt weder tragen
() noch ansehen () noch verfertigen (). Auch das
Hindurchgehen unter Statuen lehnten die Anhnger dieser nach Hippolyt bertriebenen Toradeutung als Bruch des jdischen Gesetzes
ab (). Dabei betrachteten sie das Gehen durch ein Tor mit
Bildwerkenalso das bloe Hindurchschreiten ( )
schon als Versto gegen biblische Gebote.

Der Indiculus de haeresibus des Pseudo-Hieronymus

Es ist nun weiter zu fragen, aus welcher Quelle Hippolyt sein Wissen
bezogen hat und ob es sich um zuverlssige Informationen handelte.
Bei der Beantwortung dieser Frage kann uns der Indiculus de haeresibus des Pseudo-Hieronymus aus dem 5. Jh. n. Chr. weiterhelfen.41 Im
Eingang dieser spten Schrift finden sich nmlich einige Anmerkungen
ber die Essener, Galiler, Masbother, Phariser, Sadduzer, Geni-

Haer. IX 26, 1 (Marcovich 1986, 371, 26):
, .
, ,
, .
Haer IX 26, 1: .
Ich folge der Edition von hler 1856, die nur einen verbesserten Nachdruck der
1616 in Paris erschienenen Ausgabe von Menard darstellt. Dieser Druck ist bis heute
die einzige Edition dieses Werkes.

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


sten, Meristen, Samaritaner, Herodianer und Hemerobaptisten,42 die

vermutlich eine Epitome mehrerer viel ausfhrlicherer Vorlagen darstellt. Fr unseren Zusammenhang ist vor allem die Gruppe der sog.
Galiler von Bedeutung. Im bezug auf diese Gruppe stellt der Autor
zweifelsohne klar, da es sich hierbei um Juden und keineswegs um
Christen handelte. Dazu fhrt er aus: Die Galiler sagen, der Messias
sei gekommen und habe sie gelehrt, den Kaiser nicht Herrn zu nennen
und sein Geld nicht zu benutzen.43 Bemerkenswert ist ferner, da er
fr jede beschriebene Gruppe ihr Verhltnis zum Messias angibt. So
lesen wir z.B., da die Essener, Galiler und Masbother davon ausgingen, da der Messias schon gekommen sei, whrend die Phariser
noch auf ihn warten wrden. Diese Angaben passen gut zu den sprlichen Mitteilungen in der Kirchengeschichte des Eusebius ber die sog.
44 des christlichen Theologen Hegesipp. Dieser Kirchenvater, der in der zweiten Hlfte des 2. Jh. n. Chr. lebte, stammte aus
dem Osten des rmischen Reichs und war mglicherweise, wie Eusebius anzunehmen scheint, jdischer Herkunft.45 Er sprach vielleicht
sogar, wie Eusebius andeutet, Aramisch46 und besuchte christliche
Gemeinden u.a. in Korinth und Rom. Hegesipp kannte berdies Traditionen aus Palstina, das er hchstwahrscheinlich ebenfalls bereist
hatte.47 Fragt man nach der Zuverlssigkeit der von Hegesipp herrhrenden Nachrichten, so ist der Kirchenvater als Gewhrsmann durchaus vertrauenswrdig, denn er kannte die religisen und politischen
Verhltnisse Palstinas und konnte vielleicht sogar als Augenzeuge zu
ihrer Erhellung beitragen. ber seine Reisen verfate er wohl um 180
n. Chr. eine Art Bericht.48 Darin war ein Abschnitt ber die zeitgenssischen, jdischen Gruppen enthalten, in dem Hegesipp nachzuweisen
suchte, da die christlichen Hretiker nur durch die verschiedenen
Spaltungen im Judentum hervorgebracht worden seien. Im Blick auf
diese jdischen Gemeinschaften und ihren Einflu auf die christliche


Ps.-Hieronymus, Indiculus ed. hler 1856, 283.

Ps. Hieronymus, Indiculus ed. hler 1856, 283: Galilaei dicunt Christum venisse
et docuisse eos ne dicerent dominum Caesarem, neve eius monetis uterentur.
Diese Bezeichnung verwendet Eusebius, Hist. eccl. IV 22, 1 (Text: E. Schwartz
1908, 136, 1819).
Zur Person Hegesipps vgl. Durst 1999, 278.
Hist. eccl. IV 22, 8 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 158, 1415):
; vgl. dazu W. Telfer 1960, 143.
Hist. eccl. IV 22, 2 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 156, 2526).
Gustafsson 1961, 227.


niclas frster

Kirchengeschichte bemerkt Hegesipp: Da die Kirche noch nicht durch

eitle Lehren befleckt war, wurde sie als Jungfrau bezeichnet. Thebutis
machte, da er nicht Bischof geworden war, den Anfang damit, sie zu
beschmutzen. Er gehrte den sieben Sekten im Volk an.49 Thebutis
wird hierbei als Anfang der christlichen Hresien hingestellt, wobei ihn
sein persnlicher Mierfolg bei der Bischofswahl zum Abfall veranlat
habe. Zugleich aber verbindet Hegesipp ihn mit den sieben Sekten im
Volk. Mit diesen waren jdische Gruppen gemeint.50
Leider ist die von Hegesipp verfate Schrift heute verloren, und wir
besitzen nur Zitate spterer Autoren vor allem von Eusebius. Dieser
Kirchenvater berliefert uns, da Hegesipp verschiedene Anschauungen in der Beschneidung ( )51 in
seinem Buch ausfhrlich behandelt habe, die er nach ihrem Verhltnis
zum Messias ordnete. Hegesipp schrieb nach Eusebius: Es gab in der
Beschneidung, unter den Shnen der Israeliten, verschiedene Anschauungen gegenber dem Stamme Juda und gegenber Christus, nmlich
die Essener, Galiler, Hemerobaptisten, Masbother, Samaritaner, Sadduzer und Phariser.52 Dieses Interesse Hegesipps an den Messiasvorstellungen der jdischen Gruppen ( . . . ) rhrt von
seinem antihretischen Argumentationsziel her, denn er versuchte die
christlichen Kirchenspaltungen, insbesondere durch die verschiedenen Gnostiker wie Simon den Magier, Menander oder Valentin,53 auf
jdischen Gruppen zurckzufhren, von denen letztlich die falschen
Christusse, die falschen Propheten und die falschen Apostel, welche
die Einheit der Kirche durch verderbliche Lehren ber Gott und seinen Gesalbten zerstrt haben gekommen seien.54 Aus diesem Grund

Hist. eccl. IV 22, 5 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 157, 1314 / bersetzung: Grtner
1989, 221): ,
, , , . . ..
Zu der Vorstellung von sieben jdischen Sekten vgl. auch Telfer 1960, 149150;
Simon 1964, 8586; Rudolph 1981, 4; 9; 28 Anm. 10.
Hist. eccl. IV 22, 7 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 157, 9).
Hist. eccl. IV 22, 7 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 157, 911 / bersetzung: Grtner
1989, 221):


Hist. eccl. IV 55, 5 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 157, 1519).

Hist. eccl. IV 22, 6 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 157, 46 / bersetzung: Grtner 1989,
221): . . . , , ,

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


scheint er sich eingehend mit den Messiasvorstellungen verschiedener

jdischer Richtungen auseinandergesetzt zu haben, um mit ihrer Hilfe
seine These zu untermauern, da diese jdischen
die christlichen Hretiker beeinflut htten.55 Bedauerlicherweise fehlt
in den bei Eusebius erhaltenen Zitaten die entsprechende Passage, in
der diese jdischen Gruppen genauer beschrieben waren. Der Kirchenvater weist lediglich auf von Hegesipp berlieferte, ungeschriebene, jdische Tradition56 hin, ohne weitere Einzelheiten ber dessen
Adaption solcher jdischen Lehren mitzuteilen.
Zu dem Konzept des Hegesipp, der die Wurzeln christlicher Hresien in den jdischen Gruppen und ihren messianischen Vorstellungen
zu entdecken meinte, pat nun ein merkwrdiges Detail in den Kurzmitteilungen des sog. Indiculus de haeresibus. In der Darstellung des
Pseudo-Hieronymus wird nmlich, wie oben erwhnt, fr etliche der
insgesamt zehn jdischen haereses deren Lehren ber den Christus
angegeben, wobei nicht von Jesus, sondern vom jdischen Messias
die Rede ist. Dies lt sich daraus erschlieen, da von den Pharisern ausdrcklich festgehalten wird, sie verneinen, da der Christus
gekommen sei.57 Die Galiler, Essener u.a. jedoch wrden ihre Lehren
auf einen Christus zurckfhren, womit keineswegs Jesus gemeint sein
kann. Diese auffllige Konzentration auf die jdische Messiasvorstellung knnte als ein Fingerzeig zu werten sein, da Hegesipp zumindest
als eine der Quellen infrage kommt, aus denen der unbekannte Autor
des Indiculus de haeresibus sein Referat geschpft hat. Von Hegesipp
bernahm er dann nicht nur seine Angaben zur Messiasvorstellung
der jeweiligen, von ihm nur kurz dargestellten Gruppen, sondern
auch die Nachrichten ber den Boykott rmischer Geldstcke durch
die Galiler. Dieselbe Herkunft lt sich berdies fr den Hinweis des
Pseudo-Hieronymus vermuten, da die Galiler sich weigerten, den
Kaiser ihren Herrn (dominum) zu nennen, was Josephus von Judas
und seinen Anhnger berichtet hatte.
In diesem Zusammenhang sei auch darauf hingewiesen, da mit
dem Namen Galiler Aufstndische gegen die rmische Herrschaft
Auch an anderer Stelle hat Hegesipp der Beziehung zwischen der jdischen
Messiaserwartung und dem Christentum groe Bedeutung zugemessen. Beispielsweise behauptet er, Jakobus habe einige der gewonnen, Jesus als
den erwarteten Messias anzunehmen, Hist. eccl. II 23, 9 (Text: E. Schwartz 1908, 69,
Hist. eccl. IV 22, 8; dazu Gustafsson 1961, 228.
Ps. Hieronymus ed. hler 1856, 283: Pharisaei negant Christum venisse . . ..


niclas frster

bezeichnet sind, die sich von demjenigen Judas herleiteten, den bereits
Josephus unter dem Beinamen der Galiler kannte. Der Name Galiler wurde somit spter auf die ganze von Judas ausgehende Bewegung
bertragen, was dazu pat, da schon Josephus der Aufstandsgruppe
des Judas eine lange Nachwirkung weit ber die Zeit der Revolte gegen
den Zensus des Quirinius hinaus zuschrieb.58
Im Rckblick lt sich also feststellen: Die oben erwhnten Aussagen Hippolyts ber die Ablehnung rmischer Mnzen durch jdische Gruppierungen, die religise Vorschriften ber das ntige Ma
hinaus einhielten, knnten auf Hegesipps als Vorlage
zurckgehen,59 wobei Hippolyt die Nachrichten ber die jdischen
Messiasvorstellungen einfach fortlie, weil er sich ganz auf die bertriebene Auslegung des Bilderverbots konzentrierte. Diese Zusammenhnge wurden in dem Exzerpt des Autors des Indiculus de haeresibus
aber wegen der umfangreichen Krzungen eher verschleiert. Trotzdem knnen wir davon ausgehen, da sowohl Pseudo-Hieronymus als
auch Hippolyt unterschiedlich umfangreiche Auszge aus Hegesipps
Bericht ber die sieben jdischen Sekten bieten und diese Nachrichten noch durch Exzerpte aus anderen Werken der patristischen Literatur vermehrten, die uns heute ebenfalls nicht mehr erhalten sind.60

Josephus und das jdische Bilderverbot

Wenden wir uns nun noch einmal den Werken des Josephus im Hinblick auf mgliche Parallelen in den Nachrichten des Hippolyt und
Pseudo-Hieronymus zu, so lassen einige Notizen des jdischen Historikers vermuten, da er als einer der Anfhrer der Revolte gegen die
Rmer von der radikalen Toraauslegung durch jdische Aufstndische gewut hat. Zudem war ihm wohl die extrem bilderfeindliche
Haltung bestimmter jdischer Gruppen bekannt. Diese entschiedene
Ablehnung war nmlich tief im zeitgenssischen Judentum verwurzelt.
Daher wagten es weder die Hasmoner noch Herodes, ihr Portrt auf


Vgl. Hilgenfeld 1886, 34.

Die Vermutung, da Hegesipp Hippolyts Quelle war, uerte auch Ch. Burchard
1977, 39 Anm. 201.
Simon 1964, 86.

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


die von ihnen geprgten Kupfermnzen zu setzen.61 Auerdem gab es

gegen den von Herodes am Tempeltor angebrachten Adler kurz vor
dem Tod des Knigs im Jahr 4. v. Chr. gewaltsame Ausschreitungen,
bei denen dieses schmckende Bildwerk herabgerissen wurde.62 Auch
im Jahr 37 n. Chr. protestierten fhrende Juden ( )63
dagegen, da von dem syrischen Legaten Vitellius rmische Feldzeichen mit Kaiserbildern in das jdische Siedlungsgebiet hineingebracht
wurden. Dieser Plan des Legaten verstie nach ihrer Ansicht gegen
biblische Gebote, selbst wenn es sich nur um den Durchzug rmischer Truppen handelte, die so schneller zu ihrem Einsatzort gelangen sollten. Dieses Ereignis hat Josephus in seine Jdischen Altertmer
aufgenommen. Dabei erlutert er, da im jdischen Land (
) die Kaiserbilder der Legionsstandarten nicht erlaubt seien.64
Diese Auslegung des zweiten Dekaloggebots wurde offenbar von vielen Juden akzeptiert und konnte umso leichter von Kreisen, die eine
von Hippolyt als bertrieben streng bezeichnete Toraauslegung vertraten, auf die Akzeptanz von rmischen Mnzen bertragen worden
sein, die ja, wie E. Stauffer treffend bemerkte, einer Miniaturausgabe
der Kaiserbsten z.B. auf Feldzeichen glichen.65 Die von dem Indiculus
de haeresibus erwhnte Galilergruppe htte somit lediglich eine weit
verbreitete jdische berzeugung zugespitzt und mit ihrer bertragung auf die Mnzen der Rmer ein neues Konfliktfeld mit dem rmischen Staat erffnet. berdies zogen die Rmer grundstzlich in der
von ihnen hergestellten Whrung die Steuern ein, wie es treffend in
der Zinsgroschenperikope des Neuen Testaments vermerkt ist, in der
die rmischen Denare als Steuermnzen bezeichnet sind (Mt 22:19).
Wenn Judas und seine Anhnger gegen den Zensus des Statthalters
Quirinius gewaltsam aufbegehrten, so lag es zumindest nahe, diesen
Widerstand auf dasjenige Geld auszudehnen, in dem die Steuern eingezogen wurden. Auerdem konnten die Aufrhrer auf Zustimmung
in der Bevlkerung rechnen, wenn sie auf eine konsequente Einhaltung

Vgl. Goodenough 1953, 27172; Richardson 1986, 355; Levine 1998, 48; Hendin
2001, 110.
War 1.650 (Text: O. Michel, O. Bauernfeind 1962, 172):
. . . ; vgl. Ant. 17.151.
Ant 18.121 (Text: Feldman 1965, 84); vgl. dazu Schrer 1901, 485 Anm. 134;
Smallwood 2001, 173.
Ant 18.121 (Text: Feldman 1965, 84):
E. Stauffer 1948, 136.


niclas frster

des Bilderverbots drngten. Hervorzuheben ist nmlich, da die ablehnende Haltung gegenber Bildwerken, wie Josephus eher beilufig
mitteilt, Rckhalt bis weit in die jdische Oberschicht hinein hatte,
die z.B. gegen die Feldzeichen des Vitellius opponierte.
Im brigen stand Josephus selbst dieser Auslegung des biblischen
Bilderverbots mit einer gewissen Sympathie gegenber, wie sich aus
einer Episode seiner Vita erschlieen lt. Hier erwhnt er aus der
Zeit seiner Befehlsgewalt whrend des Aufstands gegen die Rmer,
da auf Druck der Jerusalemer Fhrung der Palast des Tetrarchen
Herodes in Tiberias zerstrt wurde, weil er mit Tiergestalten versehen sei, wo doch die Gesetze so zu bauen verbten.66 Selbst wenn
dieser Bauschmuck nach Josephus nur als Vorwand diente, um reiche
Beute aus kniglichem Besitz zu machen,67 bezeugt uns dieses Detail
die kompromilose Ablehnung der Bildwerke.68 Diese dunkle Seite
seiner eigenen Biographie knnte darber hinaus das Schweigen des
Josephus ber diesen Teil des jdischen Widerstands gegen die Rmer

Rabbinische Quellen zur Auslegung des alttestamentlichen

Unsere bisher gemachten Beobachtungen, insbesondere anhand der
josephischen Geschichtsschreibung, lassen sich durch rabbinische Traditionen besttigen und gewinnen mit ihrer Hilfe ein schrferes Profil.
Wenden wir uns nmlich der rabbinischen Literatur zu, so kann man
zumindest Spuren derselben Auffassung finden.
Im allgemeinen lehnten die Rabbinen die Verwendung der von den
Rmern hergestellten Mnzen trotz der auf ihnen aufgeprgten Bilder
von Kaisern und Gottheiten keineswegs ab. Beispielsweise erlaubte
Rabbi Simon ben Gamaliel am Ende des 2. Jh. n. Chr. alle Bilder
auf geringgeachteten Gegenstnden () , whrend er
wertvolle Dinge ( ) mit Bildschmuck fr verboten


Life 65 (Text und bersetzung: Siegert, Schreckenberg, Vogel 2001, 46):

, .

Life 66 (Text: Siegert, Schreckenberg, Vogel 2001, 4647).

Life 65 (Text: Siegert, Schreckenberg, Vogel 2001, 46) Josephus betont, er habe
die schnelle Ausfhrung der Zerstrung angeordnet und darauf gedrngt. Zu den
historischen Hintergrnden s. Vogel 1999, 7576.

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


erachtete.69 Diese Unterscheidnung ist in der Tosefta dahingehend

erlutert, da zu allem erlaubten Geringgeachteten Kessel, Wasserwrmer, Tiegel, Kochgeschirr, Becken, Tcher und Mnzen70 zhlten.
Solche verbreiteten Dinge fr den tglichen Gebrauch, die nicht als
besonders wertvoll galten oder gar in Ehren gehalten wurden, durften
mit bildlichen Darstellungen verziert sein.
Daneben gibt es aber rabbinische berlieferungen, die in eine ganz
andere Richtung weisen. Sie belegen uns, da unter den Rabbinen
eine ablehnende Haltung gegenber Bildern auf Mnzen bekannt
war und von rabbinischen Gelehrten in gewisser Weise auch adaptiert und durch bestimmte Modifikationen in ihrer Grundstzlichkeit
entschrft wurde, indem sie die radikale Ausdeutung der Tora abmilderten und fr den Alltag handhabbar machten. Zugleich wurde der
in dieser Exegese verborgene, politisch brisante Kern gewissermaen
entschrft, und seine gegen die rmische Herrschaft gerichtete, gefhrliche Zuspitzung war verschwunden. In diesem Zusammenhang sind
insbesondere die in verschiedenen rabbinischen Schriften aufgezeichneten, anekdotenhaften Geschichten interessant, die um die Gestalt
des Nachum ben Simai kreisen, der in Palstina am Ende des 3. Jh. n.
Chr. lebte. Nachum ben Simai ist nur durch Erzhlungen bekannt, die
alle davon handeln, wie er das biblische Bilderverbot im Alltag eingehalten hat.71 Aus diesem Grund wurde er in der rabbinischen Literatur
an mehreren Stellen als Heiligensohn () 72 bezeichnet.73 Dieses besondere Lob wird damit begrndet, da er nicht
einmal das Bild einer Mnze betrachtete.74 Damit wird ihm dasselbe
Verhalten zugeschrieben, das Hippolyt fr die jdische Oppositionsbewegung gegen Rom erwhnte. Die exzeptionelle Konsequenz, die
Nachum an den Tag legte, wurde sogar expressis verbis hervorgehoben, und er diente sogar als Vorbild.75 Doch mssen wir eine wichtige

m. Abod. Zar. 3:3.

t. Abod. Zar. 5:1 (Text: Zuckermandel 1880, 468 / bersetzung: Strack, Billerbeck
1997, 393): . Zu
dieser Stelle vgl. Blidstein 1974, 161.
Zu Nachum ben Simai vgl. u. a. Fine 1997, 19.
b. Abod. Zar. 50a.
Zu diesem Beinamen vgl. Urbach 1959, 153.
b. Abod. Zar. 50a (Text und bersetzung: L. Goldschmidt 1903, 970):
In b. Abod. Zar. 50a beruft sich z.B. Rabbi Jochanan auf Nachum ben Simai, der
fr ihn ein Vorbild dafr war, da es erlaubt sei, auf einer Strae zu gehen, die mit
Steinen von einem Merkurius ( )gepflastert sei.


niclas frster

Einschrnkung fr unsere Fragestellung festhalten: Von Nachum ben

Simai ist einzig und allein berichtet, da er sich darauf konzentrierte,
keine Mnzbilder anzusehen. Es wird nmlich nirgends erwhnt, da
Nachum sich weigerte, Mnzen mit bildlichen Darstellungen als Zahlungsmittel zu benutzen oder bei sich zu tragen, wie es Hippoyt
beschreibt. Somit hatte er seine Ablehnung von Mnzbildern auf
einen entscheidenden Punkt reduziert, denn es ging ihm ausschlielich darum, die Geldstcke nicht anzusehen. Infolgedessen konnte
er sich gegenber rmischen Behrden nicht strafbar machen, weil
er sich allein auf das Nichtansehen der Geldstcke beschrnkte, was
nicht gegen die rmischen Gesetze verstie.76 Auerdem entschrfte
er damit das Konfliktpotential, das der von Hipployt und dem unbekannten Verfasser des Indiculus de haeresibus dokumentierte, radikale
Standpunkt der sog. Galiler implizierte. Dabei ging Nachum, wie
vorausgesetzt ist, davon aus, da das Ansehen eines Bildes eine Form
der von der Bibel verbotenen Verehrung von Bildern ist.
Dieselbe Strategie verfolgte Nachum offenbar nicht nur gegenber
paganen Geldstcken, sondern auch bei seinem Verhalten gegenber
Standbildern, die in den Stdten des rmischen Reichs an vielen Orten
wie den Stadttoren angebracht waren.77 In einer Anekdote ber sein
Begrbnis heit es dazu: Als Rabbi Nachum ben Simai starb, verhllte
man die Bilder mit Matten. Man sagte: Wie er sie zu seinen Lebzeiten
nicht anschaute, soll er sie in seinem Tode nicht anschauen mssen.78
Vorausgesetzt ist dabei offensichtlich, da der Leichnam des Nachum
auf dem Weg zum Friedhof, der in der Antike stets auerhalb der

Man sollte Nachum ben Simai darum auch keine besonders konservative Haltung in dieser Frage unterstellen. Er suchte eher nach einem Kompromi, der den
Mnzgebrauch erleichterte und einem Konflikt mit den rmischen Behrden aus dem
Weg ging, anders: Levine 1989, 86.
Zu dieser Episode vgl. auch die berlegungen von Blidstein 1974, 158159; Hengel 1976, 200 sowie Schfer 2002, 344, der auf den legendarischen Charakter dieser
Erzhlung hinweist.
y. Abod. Zar. 42c, 3, 12 (Text: Schfer, Becker 1995, 272 / bersetzung: Wewers
1980, 90):

Diese berlieferung wird in der rabbinischen Literatur noch mehrfach wiederholt

und mit der Person des Nachum ben Simai verbunden, z. B. b. Sabb. 149a; s. die
Sammlung der Stellen bei Strack, Billerbeck 1989, 692, 727; ders., 1997, 391 sowie
Krauss 1911, 716 Anm. 682; S. Helfer 1922, 46; Rist 1936, 324; Levine 1989, 86.

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


Mauern der Stadt lag,79 an Bildwerken ()80 vorbergetragen

wurde, die das Stadttor schmckten. Dabei sollte wohl entsprechend
der Interpretation des Bilderverbots, die Nachum zu seinen Lebzeiten vertreten hatte, vermieden werden, da er selbst nach seinem
Tod zufllig seinen Blick auf diese Bilder richtete. Dennoch ist in den
rabbinischen Texten der Unterschied zu der von Hippolyt berlieferten Ansicht transparent: Es wird in ihnen gerade nicht erzhlt, da
Nachum dazu aufgefordert habe, an Bildwerken nicht vorbeizugehen
und sich geweigert habe, durch ein Tor mit darber aufgestellten Statuen zu gehen.81

Die Nachrichten des Josephus knnen durch die Mitteilungen in
patristischen Quellen ergnzt werden. Diese Quellen beleuchten viel
deutlicher, als dies bei Josephus geschieht, die radikale Interpretation
des biblischen Bilderverbots durch die jdische Opposition gegen die
rmische Herrschaft.
Diese Kirchenvterberichte ber die Ablehnung von paganen Bildwerken fuen auf Nachrichten von Zeugen wie etwa Hegesipp, der mit
der religisen und politischen Situation in Palstina vertraut war und
als zuverlssiger Berichterstatter angesehen werden kann.
Dabei ist ferner von Bedeutung, da die Nachrichten Hippolyts und
die des Autors des Indiculus de haeresibus durch rabbinisches Belegmaterial als zuverlssig besttigt werden. Zudem erhellen sich die
untersuchten Berichte gegenseitig. Beispielsweise wird die kompromibereite Interpretation des biblischen Bilderverbots durch Nachum ben
Simai, deren gegen die jdischen Aufstndischen gerichteten Implikationen in den rabbinischen Erzhlungen nicht erwhnt werden, erst
evident, wenn man hierzu die Notizen des Hippolyt heranzieht.


Zu dieser Sitte, die auch in rabbinischen Quellen bezeugt ist, vgl. Klein 1908,

Dieses aramische Lehnwort ist von dem griechischen Begriff abgeleitet, s. Krauss 1899, 40.
Nachum wird sogar als Vorbild dafr in Anspruch genommen, da es erlaubt
sei, an einem heidnischen Gtterbild etwa bei einer Prozession an einem paganen
Fest vorberzugehen, y. Abod. Zar. 43b, 75. Hinter dieser Problematik steht eine
fundamentale Auseinandersetzung um die durch heidnische Gtterbilder bertragene
Unreinheit, s. G. Alon 1977, 171.


niclas frster
English summary

The paper deals with the resistance by Jewish rebels led by a certain
so-called Galilean, Judas against the Roman census. Judas regarded
submission to human rulers as contravening the first of the Ten
Commandments. Therefore his adherents opposed Roman taxation,
because everybody who paid taxes acknowledged the legitimacy of the
government. Josephus does not conceal the religious underpinning of
the rebellion, but he also does not make it a pivotal point in his narrative. He restricts himself to a few brief remarks. Probably because
of the apologetic aim of his writing, Josephus hesitated to pollute the
already tense atmosphere of the Jewish defeat in the war against Rome,
by making Jewish religion responsible for the bloody conflict.
The paper attempts to throw light on Josephus report by way of
additional sources which illuminate the religious reasons for the rebellion. The first text is a part of the refutation of Christian heretical
groups written by Hippolytus. The second text comes from an anonymous author who wrote a treatise concerned with Christian heretics
that included a brief passage on Jewish groups. His book was attributed to the famous theologian Hieronymus, but its author was probably far less important.
The reports of Hippolytus and Pseudo-Hieronymus can be traced
back to Christian theologians of the 2nd century who were familiar with contemporary Judaism. Above all they fit in well with some
reports of the church historian Eusebius about Hegesippus writings.
Eusebius tells us that Hegesippus described the doctrine of Jewish
groups e.g. the Galileans.
Hippolytus and Pseudo-Hieronymus inform us, that some Jews
interpreted the biblical ban on images as a total rejection of images.
This view made it impossible for them to use Roman coins stamped
with images and they did neither carry them nor look upon them
nor make them. They did also not enter through gates decorated
with statues, since they regarded this act as against Jewish law.
The trustworthiness of these patristic reports is confirmed by rabbinical traditions. In general, the rabbis allowed the use of Roman
coins in spite of the images of emperors and pagan deities stamped
on them and they tried to tone down the radical interpretation of the
Bible mentioned by Hippolytus. This is illustrated by stories about
Nachum ben Simai: He refused to look upon images on coins, but
he did use Roman money. He thereby avoided possible conflicts with

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


the Roman government that collected taxes in their own currency. If

one refused to use the governments currency, the penalty was death.
Nachum thus restricted his refusal to look at images to when it didnt
contradict Roman law. The same compromising behavior also characterized Nachums reaction on statues.

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in Sancti Aurelii Augustini Opera omnia, PL 42.
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Eusebius von Caesarea. 1989. Kirchengeschichte. Herausgegeben und eingeleitet von
H. Kraft. Die bersetzung v. Ph. Haeuser wurde neu durchgesehen v. H. A. Grtner, Darmstadt (3rd ed.).
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und Kommentar von F. Siegert, H. Schreckenberg, M. Vogel und dem JosephusArbeitskreis des Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum, Mnster, Tbingen.
Synopse zum Talmud Yerushalmi Band IV. 1995. Ordnung Neziqin, Ordnung Toharot: Nidda in Zusammenarbeit mit G. Reeg und unter Mitwirkung von K. Ipta,
G. Necker, M. Urban und G. Wildensee herausgegeben von P. Schfer und H.-J.
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versehen von L. Goldschmidt. Siebenter Band: Synhedrin, Makkaoth, Sebuoth,
Aboda-Zara, Horajoth, Edijoth, Aboth, Berlin.
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Alon, G. 1977. The Levitical Uncleanness of Gentiles. Pages 146189 in Jews, Judaism
and the Classical World: Studies in Jewish History in the Times of the Second Temple
and Talmud. Translated from the Hebrew by I. Abrahams, Jerusalem.
Baumbach, G. 1985. Einheit und Vielfalt der jdischen Freiheitsbewegung im 1. Jh.
n. Chr., EvT 45: 93107.
Black, M. 1956. The Account of the Essenes in Hippolytus and Josephus. Pages 17275
in: The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology. Edited by W. D.
Davies, D. Daube in Honour of Ch. H. Dodd, Cambridge.
Black, M. 1974. Judas of Galilee and Josephuss Forth Philosophy. Pages 4554 in
JosephusStudien. Untersuchungen zu Josephus, dem antiken Judentum und dem
Neuen Testament, Otto Michel zum 70. Geburtstag gewidmet, herausgegeben von
O. Betz, K. Haaker und M. Hengel, Gttingen.
Blidstein, G. J. 1974. R. Yohanan, Idolatry, and Public Privilege, JSJ 5:154161.
Bohak, G. 2002. The Hellenization of Biblical History in Rabbinic Literature.
Pages 316 in The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture III. Edited by P.
Schfer, TSAJ 93, Tbingen.
Burchard, Ch. 1977. Die Essener bei Hippolyt. Hippolyt, Ref. IX 18,228,2 und Josephus, Bell. 2,119161, JSJ 8: 141.
Drexler, H. 1925. Untersuchungen zu Josephus und zur Geschichte des jdischen Aufstandes 6670, Klio 19:277312.
Drobner, H. R. 1994. Lehrbuch der Patrologie, Freiburg, Basel, Wien.
Durst, M. 1999. Hegesipp. Page 278 in Lexikon der antiken christlichen Literatur. Herausgegeben von S. Dpp, W. Geerlings unter Mitarbeit von P. Bruns, G. Rwekamp, M. Skeb, Freiburg, Basel, Wien (2nd ed.).
Fairchild, M. R. 1999. Pauls Pre-Christian Zealot Associations: A Re-Examination of
Gal 1.14 and Acts 22.3. NTS 45: 51432.
Fine, S. 1998. This Holy Place. On the Sanctity of the Synagogue during the GrecoRoman Period, Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity Series 11, Notre Dame.
Finney, P. C. 1993. The Rabbi and the Coin Portrait (Mark 12:15b,16): Rigorism Manqu, JBL 112: 62944.
Goodenough, E. R. 1953. Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, Volume 1, The
Archaeological Evidence from Palestine, Bollington Series 37.
Gustafsson, B. 1961. Hegesippus Sources and his Reliability. Pages 22732 in Studia
Patristica Volume III. Papers presented to the Third International Conference on
Patristic Studies held at Christ Church, Oxford, 1959 Part I Introduction Editions,
Critica, Philologica edited by F. L. Cross, TU 78, Berlin.
Helfer, S. 1922. Geld und Kredit bei den Juden der talmudischen Zeit, Berlin.
Hendin, D. 2001. Guide to Biblical Coins (4th ed.). With values by H. Kreindler, New
Hengel, M. 1976. Die Zeloten. Untersuchungen zur jdischen Freiheitsbewegung in
der Zeit von Herodes I. bis 70 n. Chr., AGJU 1, Leiden, Kln.
Hilgenfeld, A. 1886. Judentum und Judenchristentum. Eine Nachlese zu der Ketzergeschichte des Urchristentums, Leipzig (repr. Hildesheim 1966).
Horsley R. A. 1987. Jesus and the Spiral of Violence. Popular Jewish Resistance in
Roman Palestine, San Francisco.
Klein, S. 1908. Tod und Begrbnis in Palstina zur Zeit der Tannaiten, Berlin.
Krauss, S. 1899. Griechische und lateinische Lehnwrter im Talmud, Midrasch und
Targum. Mit Bemerkungen von I. Lw, Teil 2, Berlin (repr. Hildesheim 1964).
Krauss, S. 1911. Talmudische Archologie, Band II, Leipzig. (repr. Hildesheim 1966).
Levine, L. I. 1989. The Rabbinic Class of Roman Palestine in Late Antiquity, Jerusalem,
New York.
Levine, L. I. 1998. Judaism and Hellenism in Antiquity. Conflict or Confluence? Seattle,

zum aufstand des judas galilaeus sowie zum bilderverbot


Mader, G. 2000. Josephus and the Politics of Historiography. Apologetic and Impression
Management in the Bellum Judaicum, Memosyne 205, Leiden, Boston, Kln.
Mason, St. 1991. Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees. A Composition-Critical Study, Studia Post-Biblica 39, Leiden.
Nikiprowetzky, V. 1989. Josephus and the Revolutionary Parties. Pages 21636 in Josephus, the Bibel and History. Edited by L. H. Feldman, G. Hata, Leiden.
Pastor, J. 1997. Land and Economy in Ancient Palestine, London, New York.
Pesch, R. 1995. Die Apostelgeschichte, 1. Teilband Apg 112, Evangelisch-katholischer
Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 5, Solothurn, Dsseldorf, Neukirchen-Vluyn
(2nd ed.).
Price, J. J. 1992. Jerusalem under Siege. The Collapse of Jewish State 6670 C.E., Brills
Series in Jewish Studies 3, Leiden, New York, Kln.
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Richardson, P. 1986. Law and Piety in Herods Architecture, SR 15: 34760.
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Rudolph, K. 1981. Antike Baptisten. Zu den berlieferungen ber frhjdische und
christliche Taufsekten. Sitzungsberichte der schsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig 121, Berlin.
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The Talmud Yerushalmi and Greco-Roman Culture III edited by P. Schfer, TSAJ
93, Tbingen.
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8,40, Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Freiburg, Basel,
Schrmbges, P. 1987. Zum rmischen Staatshaushalt in tiberianischer Zeit, Gymnasium 94: 149.
Schrer, E. 1901. Geschichte des jdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, Bd. 1, Leipzig (repr. Hildesheim, New York 1970).
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the Jewish Background of Christianity, WUNT 60, Tbingen.
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Midrasch. Zweiter Band. Das Evangelium nach Markus, Lukas und Johannes und
die Apostelgeschichte erlutert aus Talmud und Midrasch, Mnchen (9th ed.).
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Midrasch. Vierter Band, Exkurse zu einzelnen Stellen des Neuen Testaments, Abhandlungen zur neutestamentlichen Theologie und Archologie Mnchen (9th ed.).
Suchla, B. R. 1999. Hippolyt. Pages 29699 in Lexikon der antiken christlichen Literatur. Herausgegeben von S. Dpp, W. Geerlings unter Mitarbeit von P. Bruns,
G. Rwekamp, M. Skeb, Freiburg, Basel, Wien (2nd ed.).
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Geschichtswerk des jdischen Historikers Flavius Josephus, OLZ 74: 42233.


Giovanni Frulla

Writing a story that derives widely from the mythical, religious, and
literary context of the Near East, the author of Exodus 115 produces
a text which becomes a model for the following ages, when Israel is
often subjected to a foreign power and always aims to reach freedom. The liberation and the going out of Egypt have always been core
themes for Jewish cultural settings and, for this reason they have been
modified, elaborated and integrated in all ages.
I will try to summarize how and why Josephus represents Moses in
his works, focusing in particular on the second book of the Antiquities,
in order to give a wider picture of the exodus in the I century ce, when
biblical tradition is in contact with other traditions and cultures.1
It is clear that many scholars have already studied the role of Moses
in Josephus (one example is the work of Louis Feldman),2 but my own
point of view starts specifically from the perspective of the Exodus
tradition, analysing the text in order to reconstruct the different steps
of the transmission of the story.3
Reflecting on the book of Exodus the immediate question is about
Moses: Who is he? What does he represent?4

On September 2, 2006 I discussed my doctoral thesis in History and Civilization
of the Ancient Mediterranean at the University of Pavia. The purpose of my dissertation is to give a contribution to the reconstruction of the Exodus tradition, focusing
in particular on Ezekiel the tragedian and analysing his work in comparison with
Josephus Antiquities and the biblical text. This paper is taken from my work.
See for example his famous essay. Feldman 1998, 374442.
I want to thank in particular Professor Lucio Troiani and Dr. Elio Jucci (both from
the University of Pavia) for their precious suggestions during my doctoral research. A
special thanks goes to Prof. Leonardo Marcheselli for his assistance with the English
language during the preparation of the article.
It is obvious, but important, to underline that the Exodus story becomes a model
for other periods of Jewish history, such as the Exile, when Hebrews are under the control of a foreign power and, in this way, they reflect the condition of slavery described
in Exodus and adapted to a different geographic and historical context.


giovanni frulla

The biblical account of Exodus 115 describes Moses as a liberator, sent by God to save the people from slavery, in strict confidence
and contact with Him: he speaks with Him, like Abraham and other
people in the Bible.5
Moreover, Moses embodies the prophet: this is evident in the
similarity between Moses and Elijah.6
Moses, intermediary of divine will, resumes also Near Eastern
mythology, in particular the cosmogonical myths of the creation of the
world and the primeval battle between the sea monster and the positive divinity, who eventually establishes human order and cosmic rules.
Owing to this, it is rather complicated to determine who Moses is.7
The Exodus tradition does not immediately appear certain and lasting. In fact, until the Hellenistic period, we have evidence of different traditions about the release of the Hebrews from Egypt and the
characters involved. Among others, the Italian scholar Garbini questions whether in the second century bce. the Pentateuch could have
already been fixed as a corpus and asserts the possibility of a late
redaction of the first five books of the Bible.8

Moses in the Hellenistic Period

It is very interesting that in the Hellenistic period opinions regarding
Moses were not the same, even in the Jewish milieu. Moses is often represented as a military commander and ruler. But other aspects reveal

See Rendtorff 1997, 1119. Sometimes, considering Moses resolution in refusing
divine mission, the relationship between God and Moses seems equal. See some considerations in the dated (but still helpful ) Coats 1970, 1426.
In fact Moses and Elijah are not allowed to observe God face to face (as we find
in Exodus 33:1823e 1King 19:13, even if they are both involved with a theophany: see
Briend 1992, 1350); they are both the main characters of a narrative scheme proper
to the divine call, as we can see in Macchi 1996, 6774; they both choose to be representative of Hebrew monotheism against foreign religions, because in Exodus we have
a fight between Moses and Pharaohs magicians, while in 1King there is a contrast
between Elijah and Baals prophets. For an accurate description of the prerogatives
of the prophet in particular, see Catastini 1990, 10121.
About the influences of Near Eastern mythology on the account of Exodus 115
see in particular Day 1985 and Wakeman 1973. A dated, but not less important study
on this matter is Gunkel 1895. Other works about this argument are Grottanelli 1979,
536 and Anderson 1987. About the cosmogonical battle see also Catastini 2001,
See Garbini 2003, in particular Chapter V (87109).

reconstructing exodus tradition


interesting features of his character which are not always brought out,
and often disagree with the biblical account. Here we take some examples from the works of three authors, Artapanus, Philo, and Ezekiel
the Tragedian.
In a long fragment quoted by Eusebius (Praep. ev. 9,27,139) the
historian Artapanus reports the story of Moses and shows him as a
hero. He compares Moses to the Greek poet Musaeus (Orpheus master). The merits of Musaeus are to have discovered crafts, weapons
and military engines, and philosophy, and to have transmitted them to
mankind. He is seen as a Greek myth, and God plays a secondary role.
In fact, Artapanus reports divine interventions only in a very few cases
and God remains apart. The author rationally explains some events
of the Exodus story, such as the crossing of the Red Sea which he
explains as a natural ebb-phenomenon. Probably, in front of a hypothetic Greek audience, he wants to try a first compromise between
Jewish faith and Greek culture.9
Moreover, Artapanus narrates in detail Moses campaigns in Ethiopia, presenting him as a clever general and a successful leader, and so
showing that the warlike element is one of the specific features of his
In the 1st century ce, Philo of Alexandria develops a better consciousness of the relationship between Jewish and Greek culture and
writes accordingly. He starts De vita Mosis with these words:
I purpose to write the life of Moses, whom some describe as the legislator of the Jews, others as the interpreter of the Holy Laws (Philo, De vita
Mosis 1.1, Colson).

Philo wants to speak to those who reduce Moses to a legislator (the

non-Jews), and at the same time to those who see him as a priest and
a prophet, an interpreter of divine will (the Jews). Out of the Jewish
context, Moses (similar to Greek myths) appears as one who establishes the laws and rules of a community (as also Christian authors
who mention him).

For the description of Moses as a hero and the reference to Musaeus see Troiani
1997, 99100. About Artapanus in general see Denis 2000, 2: 1135144 in particular.
See also Charlesworth 1983, 1: 89091 about the dating and the Alexandrian provenance of this historian.
Josephus also narrates the account of Moses campaign in Ethiopia, so we will
consider this aspect in the next paragraph.


giovanni frulla

Philo deals with Law also in another work, named Hypothetik,

quoted by Eusebius in Praep. Ev. 8, where he analyzes some Jewish
rules and commandments, showing them to be good also for nonJews. Moses relationship with law is more intimate and mysterious.
This aspect links him for example to 2Maccabees 2, where also Solomon has a strict familiarity with divine Law. Both are also connected
with the temple. We have not only the connection Moses-Law, but also
his priestly function (linked to the temple), which is not less important.11 In summary, Jewish literature from the Hellenistic period tells
about different aspects of Moses: legislator, judge, priest, and military
Another curious example of different coexistent traditions is in the
work of Ezekiel, author of tragedies. In the 269 verses of Exagoge he
follows the Exodus account and depicts Moses in a rather syncretistic
way, including aspects of his character.12
Moses in fact is described as a king, judge, and visionary prophet
who is able to foresee the future through his premonitory dreams. The
tragedy narrates also the meeting with Ethiopians, a reference linked
to the tradition of a warrior Moses. Ezekiel can create this mix for
the poetic nature of his composition. In writing tragedy he freely uses
the materials at his disposal and offers a remarkable collection of this
material. The Moses that emerges is a fluid character with not many
fixed features.13

The stories contained into the two introductory letters of 2Maccabees underline
the importance of the Temple: we can say that, at the end of the II century bce more
or less, we find an internal movement of Judaism, a movement of propaganda, defence
and promotion of the Temple, the distinctive and specific element of the people itself.
For this see Doran 1981, 611. The parallelism between Moses and Solomon is an
example of the relationships between Moses and Law, and between Moses and the
Temple. The connection between these two characters is evident. For example in 1King
8 Solomon, after building the Temple, provides its dedication, pronouncing a long pray
to God (see Cogan 2001, 293); the context is similar to the final part of the book of
Exodus (3640), where Moses establishes a place for the ark of the covenant.
A critical comment on the Exagoge is available in Kuiper 1900, 23780 and
Wieneke 1931. More recent studies are Fornaro 1982, Jacobson 1983 and Holladay
1989, 301529. On Ezekiel the Tragedian in general and about the fragments which
have reached us we can read also Hadas 1959, 99101; Strugnell 1967, 44957; Kraus
1968, 16475; Starobinski-Safran 1974, 21624; Nickelsburg 1984, 12530; Robertson
1985, 80319; Horst 1988, 51946 (in particular 52125); Id. 1990, 7293; Denis 2000,
2: 1201216.
A more complete description of the work of Ezekiel the Tragedian is available in
Frulla 2005, 87107.

reconstructing exodus tradition


Moses in the Second Book of Josephus Antiquities

In the 1st century ce Flavius Josephus decides to present Jewish history basing his work on the sacred tradition, and setting it in a historical perspective which often obliges him to insert aspects of that
kind. We face a few questions: which idea of Moses was in Josephus
mind? And, accordingly, which Exodus was the model for that historical reconstruction, not always consistent with the biblical text? In
order to answer, it is necessary to underline some specific features of
Moses, as he appears in Josephus writings. The study of the relationship between this and parallel traditions can help us to understand the
true aim of Josephus in his historical reconstruction.14
Moses is discussed in Against Apion, but the analysis of this work is
not included in this article: Apion would require a specific treatment
and the symbolic role of Moses contained is not concerned with the
historical reconstruction with which we are dealing. Here we deal specifically with the account of the second book of the Antiquities, where
we can find the release of the Hebrews from Egypt and the presentation of Moses.15
a. The additions of the Antiquities
Josephus does not deny the classical interpretation of Moses as a legislator, as we can read in 3.213: Moses wrote laws and constitutions,
directly inspired by God. But in the second book of the Antiquities we
have other characteristics of Moses. The first one is his strict similarity to a real military commander. Moses is presented as a general, and
the additions to his military deeds are the best evidences of his warlike

It is important to note that in the first century ce we find many traditions circulating: probably this is the reason for the birth of different exegeses, and alongside
them, different perspectives of analysis of the sacred texts and on their interpretation.
It is likely that Josephus follows one of these different uses of biblical tradition.
In the first book of Apion Josephus reports a list of data about the origins of
Hebrews, also derived from pagan works. The descriptions of the situation are sometimes very different: they outline many features of the story that we cannot find in the
Bible, and of the role of Moses during the exodus. A specific study of Apion could be
interesting in a research about the debate regarding the origins and the movements
of the Hebrews and the resolution of this controversy in ancient and modern times.
For a commentary of Apion see Troiani 1977.


giovanni frulla

In 2.239253, for example, we find Moses against the Ethiopians,

as in Artapanus, but in a more complex elaboration. Moses has to
free Egypt from the Ethiopian army, and he has the occasion to show
everybody his military cleverness, confirmed by the episode of the
snakes and by the method used to eliminate them (Ant. 2.245247).
From 243 it seems clear that Moses mission is an attempt to provoke his death in battle. But Moses defeats the Ethiopians and besieges
them in Sheba, until Tharbi, the Ethiopian kings daughter, agrees to
marry him to obtain peace ( 252253).16
The (one of the keywords of the narrative) shows that the
Egyptian plot against Moses is evident in the following passage
(2.254255), where the intention to kill him is based on a sense of
envy (), caused by his growing prestige and fame. Moses is in
danger because his ability could be a menace to Egypt itself, as he
might turn into an enemy, dangerous and difficult to control. He is so
aware of his capacities that he doesnt hesitate to remind the Pharaoh
of his deeds in Ethiopia and the successes of his army, and most of all
of the lack of reward for all these acts ( 282).17
We have no explicit references to the Ethiopian events in the biblical text, because the Bible does not say a lot about Moses before the
theophany. Josephus, instead, describes a very real and firm character,
who is able to bear his first difficulties and knows his purpose very
well, i.e., freedom () for the Jewish people ( 290).
Josephus account continues with the quarrel between Moses and
Pharaoh and the celebration of Passover, until the death of Egyptian
firstborns and the consequent departure of the Hebrews from Egypt.
Moses leads his people to freedom, and chooses a route that again
reveals his predisposition to military matters. In fact, he chooses a
secondary and longer way through the desert in order to avoid the
Egyptians and other hostile peoples ( 322323). Here Moses reasons seem to answer to precise tactical requirements.18
Another episode where Moses appears as a general is in his speech
to the people before the final battle against the Egyptians ( 330333).
We have here the same exhortation before a battle we can find in the
accounts of Classical historians. The same scheme is present in some


See the commentary in Feldman 2000, 20205.

See ibid., 214.
See ibid., 226.

reconstructing exodus tradition


cases also in 1 and 2 Maccabees, in particular when Judas speaks to

his army and tries to convince his soldiers they have Gods favour and
protection. Josephus uses this narrative scheme to point out two main
concepts: the first is the inferior condition of the Hebrews that face an
adverse fate (where the idea of fate does not depend on human will,
but on divine intervention); the second is the divine support for the
faithful people. In this way, Moses can excite Hebrews to battle with
some expectations of victory.19
Josephus perspective appears more clearly if we look at his consideration after the crossing of the Red Sea, at the end of the second
book ( 347348). According to Josephus, nobody could question it,
since even the historians who narrate the deeds of Alexander the Great
mention a similar episode. When Alexander had to cross the Sea of
Pamphilia, the waters drew back from him. By comparing Moses to
Alexander in the narration of this supernatural event, Josephus confirms the warlike function of his character and also clarifies all the
doubts regarding his account. Though based on Sacred Books ( 347),
it is certainly a historical work as are others which belong to the same
genre, but are of non-Jewish provenance.20
Another interesting aspect of the Exodus account of the Antiquities is the charge of magic (sorcery) directly or indirectly addressed
against Moses. At 284 in fact Pharaoh accuses Moses of using not
only deception in order to defeat him, but also
, with wonders and magics. Furthermore, at 320, Pharaoh
repents having let the Hebrews go , for
Moses witchcraft (or marvels). Moses paranormal abilities (if we can
say that) are not new in the biblical account, such as in the episode
of the competition against Pharaohs magicians, but it is interesting
to point out as Josephus goes into details, underlining the charge as
real magic art. The idea of a connection between Moses and prodigious events is related to Jewish Hellenistic literature, which in fact
reports several extraordinary things done by the liberator. Artapanus,
for example, inserts some facts (such as Moses escape from prison, or
the restitution of life to the king) proper of an uncommon character.

The passage outlines not only Moses military acumen and determination as chief
and commander, but also his great faith in God and his mercy. See Feldman 2000,
In this way Josephus tries to make the miracle itself more credible, because he
quotes a famous precedent. See Feldman 2000, 230.


giovanni frulla

According to Josephus, however, Moses acts only because he is sent by

God and follows only Gods directions.21
Josephus description of the death of Moses, at the end of book 4,
seems to be an assumption (like the apocryphal contemporary Assumption of Moses), but he is particularly alert in order to avoid confusion:
Moses, in fact, would have mentioned his own death in Deuteronomy
to make people aware that he was not a divinity. This matter is connected to the problem of Josephus sources: in fact it is clear that, for
his historical reconstruction Josephus does not only use the sacred
tradition (as he says) but also other parallel accounts, inserted and
reproduced into his account.
b. Parallelisms with the New Testament
In the analysis of Moses, as he appears in Josephus writings, a reference is necessary to the role played by his cultural background and
contemporary literature. In particular, we have to consider the New
Testament, which undoubtedly influences the subject and the general
planning of Josephus work. We can start from Moses childhood,
wherein lie the origins of the contrast and of the hostilities between
Hebrews and Egyptians.22
When Josephus defines Judaism as the noblest laws and philosophy in existence23 he speaks in apologetic terms and describes Jewish people in a positive perspective. The Jews are not interested in
competing with other nations in terms of revolting against a foreign
power. The misunderstanding that makes the Hebrew hostile under
the government of other nations is explained indirectly in the second
book of Antiquities, in 205216, where an important innovation is
introduced to interpret the outcome of the Hebrew-Egyptian relationships. In 205, in fact, the presumed cause is the announcement of the
coming of a newborn who will deliver the Hebrews from slavery. This
baby will be in possession of immense virtues and will reach an eternal
glory. Alarmed by this prophecy, related by one of his scribes, the king


See Feldman 2000, 21415 and 225.

I thank Prof. Steve Mason for several suggestions he gave me during my period
of study and research at York University, in Toronto, in AprilMay 2004, and for the
frequent occasions of debate during the same experience.
See Mason 2003, 116 (but we can consider the entire passage relating to this
problem, contained at 11116).

reconstructing exodus tradition


orders all the Hebrews male infants to be drowned in the Nile ( 206).
But divine Providence, according to Josephus version, wants a happy
ending, so the newborn is saved and brought up secretly ( 209).24
Both these two elements, the presence of a prophecy and the connection with a slaughter of innocent newborns, refer to a similar episode
in the New Testament (Matthew 12). As we can see, in this passage
there are the same steps as in Josephus report. There is a prophecy
in which a child will be the saviour of the people from spiritual slavery (Matthew 1:2022) and there is the consequent slaughter (Matthew 2:16). Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exodus 1:15 reports a dream
of Pharaoh himself, interpreted by Jannes and Jambres, magicians of
Egypt. Some rabbinic traditions (Sanhedrin 101a, Sotah 12b, Midrash
Exod. Rabbah 1.18) underline that it is not a dream of the Pharaoh,
but a prediction, made by astrologers, about a pregnant woman, and
a child who will be the saviour of the Hebrews.25
For the similarity between Josephus and Matthew, it has been proposed that Josephus account may have influenced the story of the
slaughter of the innocents in Matthew. Moreover, that the story of
the announcement of the birth of Moses was possibly known by the
author of the gospel and may have supplied details for the narration
of the birth of Jesus.26
There is also another point of contact between the two narratives:
the dream of the babys father. In the Antiquities ( 210216) we can
read about a prayer of Amaram, Moses father, and an apparition of
God himself. Also in Matthew we find a strict relationship between
Joseph, Jesus father, and God, who in this case appears as an angel.27
The premonitory dream is the key to the whole story. For the babys
father it is Gods permission to act. Only after contact with God can
men do what they have to do. According to Josephus, the prophecy
confirmed by augurs and by the dream, is the greatest and most important cause of the Egyptian reaction and oppression. He often puts in
evidence how the Egyptian opinion about Moses was influenced by

About the problem and the role of the Fate see Mason 2001, 38498 in
See Feldman 2000, 188.
Cfr. Idem, 189 (with a detailed description of the interpretations of the scholars).
Cfr. Matthew 1:2021 and 2:13. Also in the case of the dream of Amaram the
tradition is divided. Some rabbinic passages (Sotah 12b13a, Megillah 14a) have a
prophecy of Miriam, Moses sister, who has a dream in Bib. Ant. 9.10, where there is
no reference to Amarams dream.


giovanni frulla

this portent and, vice versa, could influence their mutual relationships.
Josephus seems to follow a common context, the background against
which the New Testament developed. The dream and the slaughter
of innocent newborn, actually, appear also in many Apocryphal texts
relating to the New Testament, such as The Nativity of Mary, ProtoGospel of James, Pseudo-Matthew, Story of Joseph the Carpenter.28
The scheme of prophecy finds a sound context for its development.
Against this background the attention turns to the expectation of a
saviour, in a messianic hope that is present also in the New Testament.
Josephus seems to be influenced by this perspective, and in fact he follows the common structure of the messianic message. Nevertheless, he
seems to refuse this messianic expectation, setting the salvation in the
past, and denying the possibility of messianic hope in the future.

At the end of these few and rapid examples about Moses we can try to
summarize the main aspects and to draw some conclusions as regards
our original questions. At the same time the reflections that we have
just presented are particularly interesting because a lot of questions
remain still.
a. A new Moses
Flavius Josephus offers us the description of a character that does not
always correspond to the one we find in the Bible. Josephus Moses
has some new features and peculiarities, almost unpublished, at least
as regards official Judaism. It is not so, if we consider the whole Jewish tradition, in particular the Hellenistic one. Beside the usual portrait of Moses the legislator, we have in fact (in Josephus writings)
the use of some images belonging to the Jewish context. Moses is a
military leader and warrior, Moses is linked to the supernatural, he
is the only intermediary between God and human kind, the sole possible liberator, predestined to free his people. From this point of view
Josephus Moses is not as new as it might seem from a first reading.

Some considerations about these texts are available in Moraldi 1996, respectively
7475, 101, 12024, 146.

reconstructing exodus tradition


He is, instead, the last natural follower of an Exodus tradition which

is not shaped until a late epoch and which sees other parallel narratives
about Moses, circulating near to the official version.
b. Moses and Flavius Josephus
In Flavius Josephus Moses represents the main character of all Jewish
history. The messianic context in which the Antiquities narration is
inserted is the demonstration of how important is, for Josephus, to reread Jewish history under the criterion of divine providence, though
not so much historical as it appears. The facts depend on Gods will
and make sense only in a religious perspective. This is the same position that inspires Josephus political opinions and also animates his
actions with contemporary Jews and Romans. Retelling Exodus is
important in order to understand current events. Considering Moses
deeds within a messianic context, the author wants indirectly to criticize the tensions at the base of the First Jewish revolt, which, in his
opinion, derived from an internal crisis, which led to war, but was not
legitimate. The conflict was not a rebellion of the whole Jewish people,
but only of a group of tyrants that persuaded the people to fight
against the Roman Empire, probably using the hope of a messianic
salvation for a more real objective.29
Even if Josephus takes into much consideration the importance of
prophecy and of divinely inspired predictions (which he is able to
explain, because he is a priest and he possesses the gift of interpretation), we can argue that he refuses to share the messianic hopes of the
revolutionary movements of his century.30
c. Reconstructing the facts: Flavius Josephus purposes
So, why does Josephus transmit an Exodus containing additions and a
Moses not always corresponding to the Bible?
The device Josephus uses in order to reconstruct Exodus story is
the emblematic example of the complex transmission of this account,
and at the same time it is the concrete realization of a historiographical

See Mason 2003, 7881.

About Josephus ability in interpreting divine predictions see Bilde 1998, 3561.
On his connections with political movements of the epoch see Momigliano 1979,
56474 (571 in particular).


giovanni frulla

method which has significance against the background of the first century ce, when historical and political events are strictly combined with
ancient and new religions.
Pagan tradition interprets Moses as the legislator, as we have already
found in the quotation from Philo. Josephus, with his work, wants
to reconsider this interpretative trend of Alexandrian Judaism and of
the Philonian perspective in order to show a sort of opening to the
pagan points of view and to the non-Jewish cultures and religions.
Meanwhile, though, it is necessary for him to recover Jewish tradition
related to the Exodus story, in which Moses is a general, a hero, a
philosopher, and a magician, in order to show the progress of Hebrew
culture over time.
There is no gap, according to Josephus, between official Judaism
and minor traditions. We have no contrast with the surrounding nonJewish environment. Jewish history reconsiders everything and Moses,
in particular, becomes adhesive of the variety of traditions and narratives produced about Jews and by the Jews themselves.
The example of Exodus is emblematic for this type of historiographic
method. History is subdued to this need of recovery, which without
problems provides the insertion into the narration of parallel tradition
and episodes which belong to the mythical and religious sphere more
than to the historical one.

Anderson, Bernhard W. 1987. Creation versus Chaos: The Reinterpretation of Mythical
Symbolism in the Bible. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Bilde, Per. 1998. Josephus and Jewish Apocalypticism. Pages 3561 in Understanding
Josephus, Seven Perspectives. Edited by Steve Mason. Journal for the Study of the
Pseudepigrapha Supplement Series 32. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Briend, Jacques. 1992. Dieu dans lEcriture. Paris: Cerf.
Catastini, Alessandro. 1990. Profeti e tradizione. Pisa: Giardini Stampatori ed Editori.
. 2001. Il mostro delle acque: riutilizzazioni bibliche della funzione di un mito.
Mediterraneo Antico 4: 7189.
Charlesworth, James H. 19831985. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.). Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
Coats, George W. 1970. Self-Abasement and Insult Formulas. Journal of Biblical Literature 89: 1426.
Cogan, Mordechai. 2001. I Kings. The Anchor Bible 10. New York & London:
Colson, Francis Henry. 19291939. Translation. Philo. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Day, John. 1985. Gods Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

reconstructing exodus tradition


Denis, Albert-Marie. 2000. Introduction la littrature religieuse judo-hellnistique (2

vols.). Turnhout : Brepols.
Doran, Robert. 1981. Temple Propaganda: The Purpose and Character of 2Maccabees.
Washington DC: The Catholic Biblical Association of America.
Feldman, Louis H. 1998. Josephuss Interpretation of the Bible. Berkeley, Los Angeles,
London: University of California Press.
. 2000. Translation and Commentary. Flavius JosephusJudean Antiquities 14
(III). Edited by Steve Mason. Leiden, Boston, Kln: Brill.
Fornaro, Pierpaolo. 1982. La voce fuori scena. Saggio sullExagoge di Ezechiele. Torino:
Giappichelli Editore.
Frulla, Giovanni. 2005. The Exagoge of Ezekiel: a Jewish Tragedy from the Hellenistic
Period. Theatralia 7: 87107.
Garbini, Giovanni. 2003. Mito e storia nella Bibbia. Brescia: Paideia.
Grottanelli, Cristiano. 1979. The Enemy King is a Monster: a Biblical Equation. Studi
Storico Religiosi 3: 536.
Gunkel, Hermann. 1895. Schpfng und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit: Eine religiongeschichtliche Untersuchung uber Gen 1 und Ap. Joh. 12. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck
und Ruprecht.
Hadas, Moses. 1959. Hellenistic Culture: Fusion and Diffusion. New York: Columbia
University Press.
Holladay, Carl R. 1989. Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors (II): Poets. Atlanta,
Georgia: Scholars Press.
Horst, Pieter W. van der. 1988. The Interpretation of the Bible by the Minor Hellenistic Jewish Authors. Pages 51946 in Mikra. Edited by Mertin Mulder and Harry
Sysling. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
. 1990. Some notes on the Exagoge of Ezekiel. Pages 7293 in his Essays on the
Jewish World of Early Christianity. Freiburg: Universittsverlag.
Jacobson, Howard. 1983. The Exagoge of Ezekiel. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Kraus, Clara. 1968. Ezechiele poeta tragico. Rivista di Filologia e Istruzione Classica
96: 164175.
Kuiper, K. 1900. De Ezechiele poeta Iudaeo. Mnemosyne 28: 23780.
Macchi, Jean-Daniel. 1996. Exode et Vocation (Exode 3/112). tudes Thologiques et
Religieuses 71: 6774.
Mason, Steve. 2001. Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees. Boston, Leiden: Brill.
. 2003 (first published in 1993). Josephus and the New Testament. Peabody: Hendrickson.
Momigliano, Arnaldo. 1979. Ci che Flavio Giuseppe non vide. Rivista Storica Italiana
91: 56474.
Moraldi, Luigi. 1996. Vangeli apocrifi. Casale Monferrato: Piemme.
Nickelsburg, George W. E. 1984. Ezekiel the Tragedian. Pages 12530 in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Edited by Michael Edward Stone. Assen: Van
Gorcum & Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Rendtorff, Rolf. 1997. Some Reflections on the Canonical Moses: Moses and Abraham.
Pages 1119 in A Biblical Itinerary: In Search of Method, Form, and Content: Essays
in Honor of George W. Coats. Edited by Eugene E. Carpenter. Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press.
Robertson, Robert Gerald. 1985. Ezekiel the Tragedian. Pages 80319 in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (II). Edited by James H. Charlesworth. New York, London,
Toronto: Doubleday.
Starobinski-Safran, Esther. 1974. Un pote judo-hellnistique: Ezchiel le tragique.
Museum Helveticum 31: 21624.
Strugnell, John. 1967. Notes on the text and metre of Ezekiel the Tragedians Exagoge.
Harvard Theological Review 60: 44957.


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Troiani, Lucio. 1977. Commento storico al Contro Apione di Giuseppe. Pisa: Giardini
Stampatori ed Editori.
. 1997. Letteratura giudaica di lingua greca. Apocrifi dellAntico Testamento (V).
Edited by Paolo Sacchi. Brescia: Paideia.
Wakeman, Mary K. 1973. Gods Battle with the Monster: A Study in Biblical Imagery.
Leiden: Brill.
Wieneke, Joseph. 1931. Ezechielis Iudaei poetae Alexandrini fabulae quae inscribitur
fragmenta. Monasterii Westfalorum.


Dov Gera

Josephus Jewish Antiquities is often treated not as a unified work but

rather as a combination of two distinct parts: the first part is a retelling of the biblical narrative, while the second surveys the history of
the Jews from Alexander the Great to the outbreak of the First Jewish
Revolt.1 Such a view is perhaps understandable in light of the reverence of scholars of many faiths towards the Bible; a reverence which
seems to extend even to Josephus reworking of it. A contributing factor is the tendency of scholars to focus on subjects of their choice.
This seems to place the biblical scholar and the intertestamental one
on opposite sides of a fault line.
Josephus however did not share these attitudes, for in his preface
to the Jewish Antiquities he tells us that his aim was to write a work
which would encompass the entire archaeology of the Jews as well as
their constitution translated from the Hebrew (Ant. 1.5). A bit later
he tells us that countless are the things revealed through the Sacred
Scriptures, since, indeed, the history of 5,000 years is embraced in
them . . . (Ant. 1.13, Feldman; cf. C. Ap. 1.1). In both statements Josephus makes no distinction between the history of the biblical period
and the interstestamental one. The two eras are part and parcel of the
entire archaeology of the Jews, and for the description of both, the
historian has recourse to the sacred scriptures, written in Hebrew.
Josephus statements constitute a difficulty for Jewish and Christian
scholars alike, for these pronouncements assume a process in which
Hebrew texts were continuously added to the body of the sacred scriptures until the endpoint chosen by the Jewish historian for his Jewish Antiquities, and perhaps even later.2 Thus, he could make use of

For such a view see Schalit 1944, xvxvii; Bilde 1988, 89. Both scholars make the
point that books 110 of the Antiquities form a history of the First Temple period,
while books 1120 constitute the history of the Second Temple period. In my view
this actually highlights the unity of the Jewish Antiquities.
Feldman (2000a, 5 note 5) corrects Josephus, stating that the sacred writings
cover only part of the entire history.


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these sources to delineate 5,000 years of Jewish archaeology, which in

themselves seem to be a close approximation of the number of years
that have passed, according to Josephus calculations, from the birth of
Adam until the destruction of the Second Temple.3 To Josephus then,
the benevolence of Antiochus III (Ant. 12.138146), and the cruelty
of Florus (Ant. 20.252257), were part of the countless . . . things that
were to be found in the sacred scriptures as much as the Flood was
(Ant. 1.8995). But our need to treat the Jewish Antiquities as a single
unit in and of itself with its own structure and characteristics, and
not as two distinct halves, stems from the language of Josephus who
speaks of his purpose to set forth the precise details of what is in the
Scriptures according to its proper order (Ant. 1.17, Feldman
). This would seem to indicate that in Josephus eyes,
his work was organized according to some guiding principle. Feldman
thinks that Josephus refers here to the organization of his own work,
superior to that of the Bible.4 Furthermore, throughout his work, Josephus makes anticipatory remarks, promising to elaborate on this or
that subject in the proper place ( ),5 or on a more suitable () occasion.6 Are we not justified in regarding these
allusions as further assurances by the historian that he had indeed
thought out in advance the entire scheme for his work and that in its
execution he had lived up to his original plans? Shaye Cohen argued
that Josephus normally follows the order of the Bible, except when
he strives to produce a coherent, thematic narrative.7 Should we then
understand Josephus guiding principle to be thematic? While Cohens
conclusion is surely correct, I do not think, and Cohen does not claim,
that this modus operandi of Josephus could be identified as the guiding
principle in the Jewish Antiquities. In what follows, the argument will
be made that for Josephus it was of paramount importance to arrange
both biblical and postbiblical events in their chronological sequence.

Josephus data add up to 4,893 years and 10 days. See Ant. 1.8182; 8.61, 99;
10.147; 20.233, 234, 237246, 250. Admittedly, other calculations, based on Josephus
conflicting chronological notes can be made. However, even if one accepts Josephus
statement that the First Temple was destroyed 4,513 years after Adams birth (Ant.
10.148), the remaining 487 years would exceed the end of the biblical history by a few
hundred years.
Feldman (2000a, 7 note 21) refers to Josephus remarks that Moses had left his
writings scattered in the way that he has received them from God (Ant. 4.197).
Ant. 1.170; 7.89, 103; 8.229; 10.80; 12.237; 13.275; 14.78, 176.
Ant. 3.218; 7.69; 8.211; 9.291; 10.107; 12.388. See too, Ant. 3.74; 14.323.
Cohen 1979, 4042. The quotation may be found on p. 40.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


To demonstrate this, we shall turn to various episodes, found in both

the first and second decade of his work, and see how chronological
considerations affected the historians treatment of them.
Towards the end of the book of Judges we find three stories threaded
together by a recurring editorial pronouncement which proclaims that
in those days there was no king in Israel. Two of these pronouncements also add that at the time all the people did what was right in
their own eyes (NRSV).8 The first story tells of Micah, a man from
Ephraim, who made an idol which he installed within a shrine. Later
on, a Levite from Bethlehem became the priest there (Judges 17). The
second tale, closely linked with the first, recounts the migration of the
tribe of Dan to the north. On their way up north, the Danites decided
to steal Micahs idol and were successful in convincing the priest to
join them. The Danites then conquered the city of Laish which they
renamed Dan, and installed the idol in it (Judges 18). The last narrative, which also concludes the book, deals with a Levite and his concubine who were passing through the Benjaminite city of Gibeah, and
were invited by one of the residents to pass the night at his house.
However, the local population demanded that the host hand over the
visitor to them in order to molest him. He refused, but in the end, the
Levite, apparently in order to save himself, turned his mistress over to
the mob. The women was raped, and subsequently died. In the wake of
this crime, war was declared upon the tribe of Benjamin by the other
eleven tribes (Judges 1921). These stories deal with rampant idolatry
among the Israelites, as well as trickery, immorality, fraternal disputes
and wars, and as such they are well suited to the motto mentioned
above. The absence of any recognized Israelite leader adds to the harmony between contents and caption. Thus, the last five chapters of
the book of Judges are well situated. They come after the period of the
Judges which is typified by a recurrent cycle. The Israelites first sin,
and God then arranges that one of the local Canaanite rulers oppress
them for a while. The Hebrews then repent, and God selects a leader
who saves the people, acts as their judge and brings a period of tranquility, until the people revert to their evil ways. In our chapters no
judge is present, and the state of anarchy expressed in them paves the
way to the theme of 1 Samuelthe crowning of a king of Israel.
Let us turn to Josephus handling of the story of the Levite and his
mistress. In his recital this episode is not found towards the end of the

Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25.


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book of Judges narrative, but in a different location altogether. The

historian begins his version of Judges in Ant. 5.120. Within 16 sections
he disposes of the first two chapters of Judges, and then turns to the
Levite (Ant. 5.136174). Why did Josephus place the story here, almost
at the very beginning of his Judges narrative, even before the first mention of the earliest judge, Othniel son of Kenaz?9 Attridge suggests
that for Josephus an important consideration may be the moralizing
structure of the whole book. For the effect of the transposition is to
distribute accounts of corruption throughout the period covered by
Bk. V [of Ant.].10 This view has gained some support. However, a similar transposition of this affair has taken place in Seder Olam Rabbah,
a midrashic chronographic treatise, which dates the Levite episode to
the time of Cushan-Rishathaim,11 a king of Aram whose oppression
of the Israelites occasioned the rise of the first judge (Judg 3:711).
Should we treat Josephus reasoning for antedating our story differently from the rabbinic chronologist (who does not exhibit Josephus
moralistic and dramatic tendencies)?12 George Foote Moore, in his
century old commentary on the book of Judges found it incredible
that the tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated only a generation
or two before the time of Saul.13 Thackeray responded by suggesting
that Josephus had antedated the story in order to allow time for the
tribe of Benjamin to recover itself before it furnished the nation with
its first king.14 However, this line of reasoning does not explain why
Josephus inserted the story of the Levite, his wife (for this is what
Josephus makes her), and the ensuing war in the specific place that
he did, nor do we understand how Josephus and the author of Seder
Olam Rabbah arrived at an almost identical solution. It would seem

On Othniel, see Judg 3:911. Josephus retells the story in Ant. 5.182184, giving
him his fathers name by mistake.
Attridge 1976, 13435. See too, Spilsbury 1998, 154; Feldman 2000b, 259; Begg
2005, 33 note 358.
Seder Olam Rabbah 12 (Ratner 1988, 5253). A later rabbinic work, Seder Eliyahu Rabba (11) 12 (Friedmann 1969, 57), follows this dating using almost the same
words. For English translations of these tractates see, Guggenheimer 1998, 12123;
Braude and Kapstein 1981, 169.
In fact the almost identical solution of Josephus and the Jewish chronographer
would suggest that both authors moved the story of the Levite and his mistress because
of chronological considerations, pace Feldman 2000b, 259.
Moore 1895, 40405. The quote is on p. 405.
Thackeray in Thackeray and Marcus 1934, 6263 note b. See already Whiston
1862, 208 note.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


that the explanation for both questions is quite simple. In the biblical account, the eleven tribes came to Bethel to consult the oracle,
on the eve of the third tribal battle. Now, the Bible tells us who the
officiating priest was: he was Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson
of Aaron (Judg 20:2628). Moore comments that the mention of
Phinehas would fix the time of the action in the first generation after
the occupation of Western Palestine, to which period it is assigned by
Josephus and the Jewish chronology; but this is probably . . . the guess
of a very late editor or scribe.15 Moore, whose disinterest here in the
later Jewish sources is quite evident, has pointed to the right solution.16
An author with an interest in chronology could not date the story of
the Levite and the Benjaminite war to a generation other than the one
which followed Joshua. The point of transition from Joshuas generation to the next one is marked by the final verse of Joshua. The Masoretic Text informs us of the death of Eleazar, Phinehas father (Josh
24:33). Since in our story, Phinehas is already the officiating chief
priest, it was easy for Josephus to conclude that the sons term of office
began upon his fathers demise.17 It is also possible that the biblical
text perused by Josephus was similar to that of the Septuagint. If that
were the case, then the notice that Phineas replaced his father as priest
(i. e. chief priest) upon the latters death (Josh 24:3333a) would have
been spelled out for the Jewish historian. Be that as it may, Josephus,
when paraphrasing the last verse of Joshua, tells us that Eleazar the
high priest left the priesthood to his son Phinehas.18 Josephus then
had to find an appropriate place within the early chapters of the book
of Judges narrative in which to insert the story of the Levite and his
mistress. Such a place could be found in Judg 2, where an angel of the
Lord reminds the Israelites of Gods command to not make a covenant with the Canaanites, a command not heeded by the Hebrews. The


Moore 1895, 434.

While Moores focus was on how the biblical text of Judges was formed, our
interest here is how it was understood by Josephus.
Other biblical passages lead to the same conclusion: Num 25:713; Ezra 7:5
(2 Esd 7:5); 1 Chr 5:2930; 6:35; 9:20. This conclusion applies to both Josephus and
the anonymous author of Seder Olam Rabbah.
Ant. 5.119. In Ant. 5.120, where Josephus retells the opening phrase of Judges, he
reintroduces Phinehas, although Phinehas does not feature in the biblical text, which
telling us that the sons of Israel turned to God to find out what lay in their future.
Josephus logically concluded that the medium for God Almightys reply would have
been the high priest. Furthermore, Judg 1:1 and 20:2728 are similar in both language
and setting, and the latter passage has Phinehas act as Gods intermediary.


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messenger promised that God Almighty would leave the Canaanites

in place and use them to harass the Israelites (Judges 2:13). Josephus
employs his retelling of Judges 2 (Ant. 5.133),19 as a backdrop against
which he sets the story of the Levite and the tribal war. Thus Josephus
moves our story from one transitional period of lawlessness, when the
Israelites lack leadership because of the disappearance of the judges, to
a similar, earlier period, marked by Joshuas death.20
Let us turn to the migration of the Danites (Judges 18). Josephus
retells this story, albeit with noteworthy omissions.21 However, while
in the Bible this tale precedes that of the Levite and the concubuine,
in Josephus the order of the stories is reversed. We first hear about
the Levite and the tribal war, and only then comes the section about
the resettlement of the Danites (Ant. 5.175178). Why did Josephus
change the order of the biblical narrative?
If the biblical origin of these two stories is to be considered, Josephus had no reason to reverse the order, because both come from the
same section of Judges, a section characterized by the catch phrase in
those days there was no king in Israel. However, if the Jewish historian tried to extract some chronological hints from the Danites story,
then he would have been able to conclude that the priest of the Danites
was Moses grandson,22 and therefore a contemporary of Phinehas, the
grandson of Aaron. Again, no reason for a metastasis, but the change
could stem from Josephus dating of the Levites story. The historian
was focusing on the chronology of the stories in Judges 1721, and


Cf. Begg 2005, 32 note 351.

Glatt (1993, 9293) has reached a similar conclusion saying that Josephus views
the beginning of the Judges period as the most likely occasion for the events narrated
in Judges 1721. However, Glatt does not give any reason why Josephus thought the
period starting right after the death of Joshua to be the most likely. Nodet (1995, 148
note 3) did notice the chronological observation of Judges 20:28, but did not see its
Josephus completely ignores Judges 17, the story of Micah, because it testifies to
pervasive idolatry among the Israelites. For the same reasons, the historian expunged
this element from the Danite migration story. Cf. Feldman 2000b, 257; Begg 2005, 42
note 454.
Judges 18:30 names the priest as Jonathan son of Gershom son of Manasseh,
but Manasseh ( )is written with a suspended nun. This suggests that his name
was actually Moses (). Some of the lesser witnesses to LXX likewise read Moses.
Consult the note of Harl (1999, 238239) ad loc. See too, t. Sanh. 14:8; b. B. Bat.
109b, which testify to the existence of this tradition. Josephus suppresses the name
of the priest and his ancestors, for the reason mentioned in the previous note. The
grandson of Moses would have been a glaring example of an idol worshipper. See
Feldman 2000b, 25758.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


chose the most securely dated of them to head the rest. In addition
Phinehas, as chief priest of the Israelites of his time, was the person
by whose term of office events could be dated.
Josephus treatment of the story of Ruth supplies another example
of the use of the high priest as a means of dating. In the Septuagint,
the book of Ruth is placed after that of Judges. Josephus retells Ruths
story right after the death of Samson (mentioned in Judg 16:3031),
and this arrangement is clearly in line with the Septuagint (bearing in
mind what we have seen about Josephus handling of Judges 1721).
Now the book of Ruth opens with the words: In the days when the
judges ruled, there was a famine in the land (1:1, NRSV). Josephus
begins the same story somewhat differently: After the death of Samson, the leader of the Israelites was Eli the high priest. In his days, their
country was afflicted by a famine (Ant. 5.318, Thackeray). We do not
know how Josephus came to the conclusion that Ruth lived during Elis
tenure as high priest. Perhaps Theodore Reinach was right in assuming that Josephus had counted the generations backwards from David
to Boaz.23 But it is equally significant that the historian replaces one
chronological reference with another. Josephus, apparently, was not
pleased with the broader, less defined, chronological observation of the
biblical text and sought to replace it with a more narrow and specific
comment. Placing the story within a high priests term of office, would
answer his requirements.
Before moving on to the second decade of the Antiquities, it is perhaps worth mentioning that 1 Maccabees is the main source for books
1213 of that work.24 1 Maccabees records a letter written by Jonathan the Hasmonean to the Spartans. Then comes a copy of an epistle
supposedly written by a Spartan king, Areus, to an earlier high priest
named Onias (12:618, 1923). The arrangement of the two documents in 1 Maccabees agrees with Hellenistic diplomatic usage: the
more recent letter appears first, and only then do we find, attached to
it, a copy of the earlier message. Josephus too records the text of these
two letters. In his version the Greek is more polished, the form of the

See his note ad loc. in Reinach 1900, 354 note 3. Rappaport (1930, 44), suggests
that the place of the book of Ruth in LXX was bound to lead Josephus to the conclusion that Ruths story occurred after the death of the last judge, Samson, and therefore
in the time of the next leader, Eli, who appears at the beginning of 1 Samuel as the
presiding priest.
For useful tables comparing these two sources (as well as 2 Maccabees and book
1 of the Jewish War), see Sievers 2001.


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Spartan kings name is superior to the one found in 1 Maccabees, and

Josephus is also able to add some details which are missing from his
postulated source, 1 Maccabees.25 One further difference is that while
Josephus places Jonathans missive in exactly the same location as in
1 Maccabees,26 the Spartan kings epistle has been moved to an earlier
period, to the time of the high priest Onias III.27 Menahem Stern wrote
that we cannot explain why Josephus found it necessary to change the
location of the document.28 I would suggest, however, that Josephus
chose to move the Areus letter out of chronological considerations.29 The
earlier document, purportedly written by a Spartan king and addressed
to a high priest named Onias, could not be quoted within the period
allotted to the Hasmonean high priest. The proper place for it had to be
found. Josephus, who had no knowledge of Lacedaemonian history, was
left with one clue, the name Onias. Whereas in the story of the Levite
the high priests name and patronymic secured a positive identification
of the period, the Areus letter did not furnish Josephus with a patronymic. Consequently it is not surprising that Josephus failed to identify
the right Onias. (Of the three homonymous high priests, he chose the
only one who could not have conceivably received a letter from a Spartan king, be he named Areus or otherwise). The removal of the Areus
letter from its original place suggests that no matter how awkward and
arbitrary Josephus rearrangements may seem, he was committed to the
integration of the events narrated by him into the suitable chronological
framework, in what he perceived to be the proper place for them.30

See Bickermann 1928, 786; Cardauns 1967, 317; Gruen 1998, 254 note 33.
In both texts Jonathans letter to Sparta follows upon his decision to renew relations with Rome. See 1 Macc 12:15, 618; Ant. 13.163165, 166170.
Ant. 12.225227. Onias III becomes high priest at the beginning of v. 225, and
dies at Ant. 12.237. However, Schwartz (2002, 149) identifies the Onias of vs. 225 with
Onias II. According to the text when Simon (I, according to Schwartz) died his son
Onias became his successor in office (Marcus). Yet, when Simon I expired, his son
was still a boy, and had to wait until Eleazar and Manasses had their turn as high
priests (Ant. 12.4344, 157). Schwartzs assumption entails the difficulty that not only
the high-priestly chronicle used by Josephus here was inaccurate, but that the historian, who quotes from such chronicles elsewhere, did not possess any section relating
to the times of Simon II and Onias III.
Stern 1995, 65 (in Hebrew; the translation is mineD. G.).
See already the suggestion of Tcherikover 1959, 462 note 54: The whole mlange
was caused by Josephus decision to interrupt the narrative for chronological reasons . . ., and to tell the reader what happened in the reign of Seleucus IV.
Similarly, in Ant. 12.258263, Josephus produces a set of 3 documents according
to their chronological order. The original diplomatic sequence was quite different. See
Bickerman 2007, 37983.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


Another passage related by Josephus within the framework of

Onias IIIs high priesthood is the latter part of the story concerning
Hyrcanus the Tobiad.31 We are told there that Hyrcanus ruled his
estate, placed to the east of the Jordan River, for seven years, during all the time that Seleucus reigned over Syria.32 I have taken this
detail to be an integral part of the Tobiad saga.33 If this is right, we
can see how advantageous this piece of news would have been to Josephus. The historian must have known from his sources, as we do from
one unknown to him, 2 Maccabees, that Seleucus IV and Onias III
were contemporaries.34 Therefore, Hyrcanus exploits had to be placed
within the high priesthood of Onias III, although the Tobiad legend
makes no connection between these two personalities. One can therefore see the similarity between the integration of the story of the Danites within the high priesthood of Pinehas to the present one.
In his handling of the last two episodes, Josephus concluded (erroneously) that both were contemporaneous, belonging to the time of
Onias III. He therefore set them side by side. But we still need to know
how did Josephus deal with other periods in which events constantly
move from one theater to another. One such era is that of the divided
monarchy, covered by parts of 1 and 2 Kings (1 Kgs 12; 2 Kgs 17). There,
the biblical editor employs his own methodology to cover the parallel
histories of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.35 Once the separation
of what was the kingdom of Solomon becomes a fact (1 Kgs 12:124),
the narrator describes the 22 years of Jeroboams reign over Israel
(1 Kgs 12:2514:20).36 After that, the focus shifts to the Judaic kingdom and the editor tells us, in succession, of the events there during the reigns of Rehoboam, Abijah and Asa (1 Kgs 14:2115:24). In
Ant. 12.228236. For a discussion of the Tobiad legend with its two parts, see
Gera 1990; 1998, 3658; Gruen 1998, 99106, 23640.
Ant. 12.234. The translation is that of Marcus. I have merely replaced the translators Asia with the texts Syria.
Gera 1990, 31 note 44, 38 note 77; 1998, 37, 55 note 80, 57 note 94. See too:
Schwartz 1998, 58.
2 Macc 3:14:7. Josephus dates the death of Onias III to the very beginning of
Antiochus IV Epiphanes reign (Ant. 12.237).
The artificiality of the division between 1 and 2 Kings is exemplified by the fact
that the reign of Ahaziah, king of Israel, begins at the very end of 1 Kings, and continues directly at the opening of the second book (1 Kgs 22:52; 2 Kgs 1:18). See Gray
1970, 1; Long 1984, 14.
In this passage there are substantial differences between the MT and LXX. 3
Kgdms 12:24a24z is a long addition placed after 1 Kgs 12:24. 1 Kgs 14:120 is absent
from LXX. Parts of the additional Greek text paraphrase sections of 1 Kgs 14:120.


dov gera

other words, the narrator chose first to describe the events within the
kingdom of Israel, then turned his attention to the deeds of the kings
of Judah whose reigns paralleled those of the king of Israel. Similarly,
once the narrator has finished describing Asas long reign he switches
back to the affairs of Israel and records the reigns of seven of its sovereigns, all of whom were crowned in the course of Asas extended
reign. This methodology is used until the dissolution of the kingdom
of Israel, although its use is less consistent in 2 Kings.37 One advantage
of the editors chosen technique is that the reign of each king is a unit
within itself. However, when the histories of the kingdom of Judah
and Israel converge, the result is not a happy one. Thus we hear, within
the framework of Asas reign, of his wars with Israels king, Baasha
(1 Kgs 15:1621) before we even get to hear of the latters ascendency
to the throne (15:28).38 In another instance, the editor is forced to
deviate from his usual method, and to place the reign of the Judaic
king, Ahaziah son of Joram (2 Kgs 8:259:29) within the description of
the rule of Joram son of Ahab over Israel (2 Kgs 3:19:26). Both kings
were killed by the rebel Jehu, within a single day (2 Kgs 9:2128). As a
result, the biblical narrator found it impossible to separate their reigns.
Another criticism which may be leveled against the editor is that his
thematic treatment of each king comes, to some extent, at the expense
of the orderly chronological progression of the story. Thus, after we
have been told of Asas 41 year reign (1 Kgs 15:924), the narrator
is forced to return to Asas second year because at that time Nadab
became king over Israel (1 Kgs 15:25). Admittedly, a discussion of
Josephus handling of the parallel histories of the kings of Judah and
Israel may be hampered by the divergent nature of the texts of the
Hebrew and Greek Bible covering that period. Thus, any assessment
of Josephus handling of the biblical material may seem to be arbitrary,
because of our inability to prove which text or texts were used by the
Jewish historian. However, if we look at the segment of parallel history
which covers Asas reign in Judah, and six out of the seven reigns of
his contemporaries in Israel, we will find that the structure of the Septuagint is in line with the Masoretic one. We first encounter a descrip-


Gray 1970, 25; Long 1984, 2223; 1991, 34; Cogan 2001, 100.
1 Kgs 15:2729; 15:3216:6. Cf. 3 Kgdms 15:2729; 15:3316:6.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


tion of Asas extended rule, and only then do we read about the reigns
of his six contemporaries.39 How does Josephus deal with this era?
The question is not an idle one, despite the fact that his version
of the period of the divided monarchy has been recently studied in
the most detailed manner.40 Was Josephus influenced by chronological considerations while reorganizing the biblical text? In the Jewish
Antiquities King Asa first appears at the end of a section centered on
his father Abijah. The son is mentioned as Abijahs successor to the
throne, and in this very short notice on Asas reign, we hear only that
the land enjoyed peace for 10 years.41 Immediately afterwards, Josephus tells us of the death of Jeroboam, king of Israel, after a reign of
22 years.42 In the Bible, Jeroboams demise is mentioned long before
we are told of Asas rise to power. The change may be explained quite
simply. The Bible tells us that Asas enthronement was synchronous
with Jeroboams twentieth year (1 Kgs 15:9), and that the latters son
Nadab became king of Israel in Asas second year (15:25). Josephus
decided to place Jeroboams death, and the crowning of Nadab, very
early in Asas reign, in the place where they would have been inserted
had 1 Kings been arranged in a strict chronological sequence. From this
point the Jewish historian goes on to narrate the affairs of Israel during Nadabs two year reign until his assassination by Baasha.43 While
the biblical text, after detailing Nadabs reign, goes on to describe, in
one continuous long section, what happened to Israels later kings,
from Baasha to Omri,44 Josephus reverts to Asa. In 2 Chronicles, as
we have seen, the report of the kings deeds begins with a statement
that his first ten years as ruler were marked by peace (13:23). Then

1 Kgs 15:924 (Asa); 15:2531 (Nadab); 15:3216:6 (Baasha; see also previous
note); 16:814 (Elah); 16:1520 (Zimri); 16:2122 (struggle between Tibni and Omri);
16:2328 (Omri as monarch).
Begg 1993; 2000, 5386; Begg in Begg and Spilsbury 2005, 56203.
Ant. 8.286. Josephus sources here are 1 Kgs 15:810; 2 Chron 13:23. The wording
of the two passages is quite similar. However, the addition in 2 Chron 13:23in his
days the land had rest for ten years (NRSV)transforms this section from a schematic conclusion of Abijahs reign into a sentence which also marks the beginning of
Asas reign. Since Josephus makes use of 2 Chronicles here, Ant. 8.286 is both a conclusion of the reign of Abijah and an opening of his sons rule. Begg (1993, 109110
and 117139; and in Begg and Spilsbury 2005, 79 note 1027) ignores this.
Ant 8.287a, is based on 1 Kgs 14:20a. Jeroboams death is not mentioned in the
Greek Bible, and that version assigns him no less than 24 years as king. See 3 Kgdms
Ant. 8.287b289. For the biblical source, see 1 Kgs 14:20b; 15:2529; 14:11.
At this point the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint part ways, as noted before.


dov gera

comes a short section which praises Asa for his efforts to root out
idolatry from his kingdom (14:14). In the parallel biblical report,
1 Kings, the opening verse discussing Asas reign also touches upon his
commitment to ban idolatry.45 This is followed by a report on the war
which Baasha launched against the king of Judah (1 Kgs 15:1622).
2 Chronicles, however, with its more detailed description of Asas
reign, has some material which is placed before that dispute. How does
Josephus retell the story of Asa, narrated by the two biblical books? It
would seem that he decided that the material in 2 Chronicles which
precedes Baashas confrontation with Asa, must be earlier. Therefore,
Josephus starts this second account of Asas deeds by paraphrasing the
chronicler. He tells us of Asas excellent character, makes only a veiled
allusion to Asas efforts to root out idolatry, paraphrases the story of
Asas war against the Ethiopian Zerah, and of the prophecy of Azariah,
and the kings response to it.46 At this point Josephus announces his
return to the affairs of the people f Israel and their king. He retells
the story of Nadabs killing by Baasha (previously mentioned within the
framework of Nadabs deeds), notes Baashas wickedness, and uses the
prophecy of Jehu which foretold doom to the king and his descendants
to elaborate on the kings disdain for the Lords words.47 The Jewish
historian then introduces Baashas occupation of the town of Ramah,
and the strengthening of its fortifications (Ant. 8.303). In Josephus,
then, Baashas aggression against the kingdom of Judah is narrated,
as it should be, within the framework of the acta of Baasha, the king
of Israel. In the Bible, this initiative of Baasha appears in the section
allotted to Asa in both 1 Kgs (15:17) and 2 Chron (16:1b). Josephus,
by dividing the Asa story into several segments and by introducing the
occupation of Ramah within the narrative of Baashas reign, avoids the
blunder of the narrator of 1 Kings who, it will remembered, had mentioned this dispute before telling of Baashas rise to power. The historian can then go on and paraphrase the story of the war between the

1 Kgs 15:12. The biblical narrator continues in the same vein in vv. 1315, but
these lines have an almost verbatim parallel in 2 Chron 15:1618.
Ant. 8.290297. Cf. 2 Chron 14:14, 714; 15:19; 1 Kgs 15:1115. See Begg 1993,
117128. We have already encountered Josephus tendency to leave out biblical allusions to idolatrous practices among his people (above, note 21). Here too Josephus
omits all mention of the similar behavior of the people of Judah, and of Asas objection to them. He merely alludes to the kings efforts to root out evil from his realm. Cf.
Begg in Begg and Spilsbury 2005, 8082, and especially notes 1043 and 1046.
Ant. 8.298302. See 1 Kgs 15:3316:4.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


two kings within the framework of Baashas reign, at variance with the
Bible. Once the narrative of this war, which ended with Baashas withdrawal, had been completed, Josephus could make use of the words of
the editor of 1 Kings, which sum up Baashas reign, to end his discussion of that king, thus connecting political and military failure with
death.48 Whereas previously, after telling of Nadabs death, Josephus
chose to focus his gaze on the affairs of Asa, the death of Baasha does
not impel him to act similarly. Instead, he resumes his story of the
kingdom of Israel.49 His decision to do so stems from his portrayal of
Asa. The latter appears in 1 Kings as a righteous, industrious king who
is not devoid of political ability. The only thing that casts a shadow on
his gilded reign is the debilitating sickness he came to suffer in his old
age (15:924). In the other biblical source the picture is more complex.
Asas beginnings are auspicious. The Chronicler lauds Asa for bringing peace to his kingdom, and speaks of his praiseworthy character,
clearly demonstrated by the kings efforts to cleanse the realm from
pagan practices. Asa also achieved military success, overcoming the
Ethiopians, and again made a show of his pious character by heeding
the words of the prophet Azariah, making a renewed effort to root out
idolatry, rebuilding the altar, and compelling his people to renew their
covenant with God (2 Chron 13:2315:19). However, the chronicler
presents an entirely different picture of Asas later years. It was then
that the king was attacked by Baasha. Asas decision to seek political
and military aid from the king of Aram provokes a strong condemnation by the prophet Hanani, who rebukes him for having relied upon
the assistance of a foreign king, and not that of God. Asa then turns
against the prophet, and against some of the people as well. The kings
illness and death quickly follow, the implication being that the sinful
Asa was punished by the deity (2 Chron 16:114). Josephus, it will
be remembered, covered the war between Baasha and Asa within his
narrative on the king of Israels reign. The historian omits the negative
tradition concerning Asa in 2 Chronicles, which follows the description of that war. He further glosses over the mention of Asas illness
For Baashas war with Asa, and Baashas death, see Ant. 8.303307a. This is based
on 2 Chron 16:1b6; 1 Kgs 15:1722; 16:6a.
Begg (1993, 129) is right not to see any break after Ant. 8.306 or 307. In my view
the section starting at Ant. 8.298 is part of a larger unit describing the affairs of the
kingdom of Israel. Begg, probably because of the intermingling of the affairs of Asa
and Baasha here, as well as for editorial reasons, regards Ant. 8.298 ff. as a special unit
devoted to the interaction of the affairs of both sovereigns.


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which also appears in 1 Kings (15:23), that being the only detail in
that book which might be construed as evidence of some blemish on
the kings part. Josephus chose to follow the overall presentation of
1 Kings and to portray Asa as a positive and edifying ruler.50 This left
him with no additional biblical material on Asa after the Baasha affair,
save his death. But the story of his death could not be told before the
mention of the crowning of Ahab. Consequently, Josephus continues
to delineate the successive rule of the kings of Israel from Baashas
heir, Elah, to Omri. He then mentions Ahabs ascent to the throne,
recorded in the Bible in connection with Omris demise, and only then
turns to Asas death.51
Josephus description of the reign of Asa in Judah, and that of six of
his contemporaries in Israel, does not follow the structure of 1 Kings
for the divided monarchy. He avoids the thematic unity that the biblical narrator is at pains to follow.52 Unlike the biblical editor, he does
not move the actions of the kings forwards in great leaps. Nor does
he turn backwards in almost equally large steps. Instead, he divides
his material, especially that relating to a long serving king like Asa, so
that the parallel affairs of Israel and Judah can progress step by step.
Josephus commits himself, to the best of his ability, to a narrative that
is chronologically linear, even if this comes at the expense of the thematic unity of his source.53
Let us see if the technique used by Josephus when telling of synchronous events in the affairs of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel,
is mirrored in his dealings with contemporaneous postbiblical events
which took place in distinct geographical arenas. Jonathan the Hasmoneans leadership of the people of Judea, discussed in 1 Maccabees,
may serve as a starting point. That book tells us, amongst other things,
of the war waged by the pretender Alexander Balas against the Seleucid king, Demetrius I. As a result, Demetrius was killed. The victor
then approached Ptolemy VI Philometor of Egypt, formed an alliance

For Josephus figure of Asa, see Ant. 8.290, 293297, 314. Cf. Begg 1993, 14950;
Begg in Begg and Spilsbury 2005, 85 note 1116, 87 note 1157.
Ant. 8.307b314. Josephus relies here on 1 Kgs 16:6b, 828; 15:24; 2 Chron
16:13. The reference to Asas dying after having ruled 41 years may also originate from
1 Kgs 15:10.
The biblical editors one exception, concerning king Ahaziah of Judah, was discussed above, pp. 1213.
Begg (1993) shows little concern for the chronological aspect of Josephus rewriting of the Bible, but cf. Begg 2000, 629.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


with him and married his daughter (10:4858). Josephus, paraphrasing 1 Maccabees, tells us how Balas concentrated his forces against
Demetrius,54 then adds a few sentences from an unknown source on
Demetrius noble death on the battlefield,55 to which he appends a
rather long section consisting of two parts. The first quotes a letter
said to have been written by Onias IV. In it the priest asks Ptolemy
Philometor and his wife to let him build a Jewish temple in Egypt. The
king and his consort reply with their own epistle, granting Onias his
request. The second part tells of Philometors support of the Alexandrian Jews in their dispute with the Samaritans (Ant. 13.6273, 7479).
Only then does Josephus return to his source, 1 Maccabees, and speaks
of Balas approach to the Ptolemaic king (Ant. 13.8082).56 The Jewish
historian, who states his intention to make public all the honors given
our nation . . . in order that the other nations may not fail to recognize
that both the kings of Asia and of Europe have held us in esteem . . .
(Ant. 14.186, Marcus),57 did not wish to forego the opportunity of letting his readers know of the respect and appreciation shown to the
Jews by Ptolemy Philometor of Egypt. At the same time, he had to find
the correct chronological point in which to insert this narrative concerning the affairs of the king and the Jews. One possibility would have
been to place the two stories, or at least the first, within the events of
163 bce because it was at this juncture, the execution of Menelaus the
high priest and the appointment of Alcimus in his stead, that Josephus
had dated the flight of Onias IV to Ptolemy VI in the Jewish Antiquities.58 However, Josephus did not take that option, and as we have seen
inserted the story elsewhere. It is possible that he chose to introduce
the two Jewish-Egyptian tales where he did, because of the mention
of Philometor in the 1 Maccabees narrative. Josephus could string
together three stories centered on the figure of Ptolemy Philometor.
The source (or sources) for the first two is unknown, but the third


Ant. 13.58 is based on 1 Macc 10:48.

Ant. 13.5961. The positive depiction of Demetrius I here seems to rule out the
possibility that our main source here is 1 Maccabees. However, Josephus may have
amalgamated elements from his unknown source with some borrowed from 1 Macc
10: 4950. See Sievers 2001, 164.
Josephus source here is 1 Macc 10:5158.
See too Ant. 16.174175. For this element in the Jewish Antiquities, see Bilde
1988, 99101.
Ant. 12.387. Note however that in War 1.3133; 7.423, this event is dated to ca.
169 bce.


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(Ant. 13.8082), from 1 Maccabees, would lead the reader back to the
affairs of Jonathan the Hasmonean. Josephus section on Philometor
is therefore characterized by its theme, the king of Egypt,59 which he
spliced into his account of Judean affairs. This betrays Josephus commitment to chronology and to the narration in tandem of the Jewish
history in both Judea and Egypt.60 However, Josephus synchronization of the affairs of Judea and Egypt is not finely tuned. The historian,
ignorant of an exact date for his two Jewish-Egyptian episodes, uses
Ptolemaic involvement in the affairs of Coele-Syria as means of introducing them. If we take the sources used by the historian into account,
we can say that Josephus is as accurate (or inaccurate) in the matter of
the tribal wars narrated in Judges as he is concerning Egyptian Jewry
of the second century bce.
It is ironic that Josephus interest in, and obsession with, a presentation of Jewish archaeology that is chronologically linear is matched by
his inability, on numerous occasions, to place events in their proper
chronological setting. Mention has been made of the Spartan letter
addressed to Onias. Similarly, he dates a letter written by Caius Fannius son of Caius, commonly identified as the consul of 161 bce,
C. Fannius Strabo, within the years 4944 bce, simply because he confuses the consul with a Fannius of the mid-first century bce.61 More
glaring still is the insertion of four decrees of the second century bce
into the historians narrative of Hyrcanus IIs rule.62 Yet these decrees
belong to the time of John Hyrcanus.63 It would seem that the mention
of the name Hyrcanus in the decrees, has led Josephus to ascribe them
to the later Hyrcanus, and it was the historian who made the neces-

Therefore I doubt if we can date the construction of the Oniad temple to 152 bce
or later as maintained by Schwartz (2004, 5152). He argues that Josephus placing
of the building of the Oniad Temple (Ant. 13.62 ff.), after the assumption of the high
priesthood by Jonathan (Ant. 13.46), dated to 152 bce, provides us with a terminus
a quo. For a survey of the problems regarding the date of the temples establishment,
see Gruen 1997, 4857.
Ant. 13.284287, is another example of Josephus habit of interpolating additional material into his Judean narrative in order to tell of roughly contemporaneous
events concerning Egyptian Jewry.
Ant. 14.230 and 233. See Gera 1998, 310 with note 149.
Ant. 14.145148a, 149155, 247255. For Josephus ascription of the documents
to Hyrcanus II, see Ant. 14.144, 155, 265.
For discussion of these documents, see Giovannini and Mller 1971, 15665;
Timpe 1974, 14650; Schrer 1973, 20405 and note 7; 1979, 5253 note 143; Gruen
1984, 74851.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


sary adjustments to Hyrcanus patronymic and title.64 Homonymity

has been the occasion of Josephus downfall several times over.
Josephus tendency to err in matters of chronology is not limited
to documents of a diplomatic nature. One glaring example will suffice. The saga of the Tobiad family is placed by Josephus after the
marriage of the Seleucid princess Cleopatra, daughter of Antiochus
III the Great, to king Ptolemy V Epiphanes.65 Yet, scholars en masse
have rejected Josephus chronology, placing the story of the Tobiads
in the third century bce, at the time when Coele-Syria was part of
the Ptolemaic kingdom. The Ptolemaic setting of the story, and the
lack of any sign of Seleucid sovereignty in that area, convinced scholars that most of what we are told in the Tobiad saga relates to the
period of direct Ptolemaic rule over Coele-Syria (allowing only for its
ending to occur ca. 200175). Josephus claim that Antiochus III, had
ceded control over Coele-Syria, and had given it to his new son-inlaw was rejected as untrustworthy. Josephus next assertion, that the
revenues coming from this territory were divided between the two
kings, was considered equally suspect (Ant. 12.154155).66 Recently
there has been an attempt by Daniel Schwartz to justify Josephus
placing of the story in the second century bce, and to claim that
indeed Antiochus III allowed the income of the province to revert to
the Ptolemaic kingdom.67 Schwartzs point of departure is to ask
why . . . when Antiochus (III) was first throwing all of his effort into
the northern Mediterranean, and later when he and . . . Seleucus IV,
were so weakened by Magnesia and Apamea, did Ptolemaic Egypt do
nothing by way of revanche? He then goes on to suggest that Antiochus, by giving to Ptolemy V the revenues from his former province, was shrewdly pacifying a potential enemy in the rear of the
Seleucid kingdom, while his ambitions were directed to the north and


See Stern 1973, 195; Pucci Ben Zeev 1998, 22, 402.
Josephus notes the marriage and the handing over of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia
as dowry by Antiochus to his new son-in-law in Ant. 12.154. The Tobiad saga is narrated in verses 156222, 228236.
The article of the great Holleaux (1942, 34245) deserves first mention. See too
Bchler 1975, 4448, 5371; Tcherikover 1959, 12830; Schrer 1973, 140 note 4;
Hengel 1974, I.268269, II.179 note 76; Will and Orrieux 1986, 7881. Additional
bibliography was assembled by Schwartz 1998, 50 note 8.
Schwartz (1998). See Fuks criticism (2001), and the response of Schwartz (2002).
In fact, Schwartzs idea had been anticipated by Cuq (1927).


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northwest.68 Schwartz basically wants to argue from silence, from the

complete inaction he assigns to the Ptolemaic kingdom in restoring
the lost province (even though his assumption that nothing was done
is somewhat exaggerated; see below). This is always a hazardous
proposition.69 I readily agree with his point that it would have been
natural for the Ptolemaic kingdom to aim for the recapture of CoeleSyria. However, the effort to take on the Seleucid kingdom, even after
Magnesia, was no mean feat. What should have been asked is whether
the Ptolemaic kingdom had the means for such an undertaking. It
must be remembered that in the years 203196 bce, not only CoeleSyria was lost. Other territories, perhaps more important for the
kingdom, were wrested away by Philip V of Macedon and Antiochus
the Great. The Ptolemies were left without any foothold in Asia
Minor, the Aegean Islands and Thrace. Rome, which at first declared
itself to be on the side of Ptolemy Epiphanes, chose later (196 bce) to
uphold the freedom of the Greek cities in Europe and Asia Minor.
This meant, from the Ptolemaic point of view, that Rome was now
opposed to the Ptolemaic claim for their former possessions. For the
next quarter century relations between the Rome and the Ptolemies
would remain distant and cool. The offer of Antiochus III at this
juncture to give his daughter in marriage to the young Ptolemy V
must have been seen as an assurance that Seleucid ambitions would
not extend to what remained of the Ptolemaic kingdom. Nor did
Antiochus III need to offer more, in light of the overall sorry state of
his southern neighbor. Furthermore, Ptolemy V, crowned at the age
of 6 (204 bce), was incapable of ruling for much of the period. In
itself this need not reflect on the kingdom, but in fact, in Epiphanes
first years as king, power at court shifted from one chief minister to
the next in an alarming rate. Moreover, the government of Alexandria faced serious difficulties in controlling Egypt itself. In the years
between 206186 bce parts of Upper Egypt were held by a renegade
Pharaonic kingdom. The Delta in the north was also infested with

Schwartz 1998, 4850; 2002, 146 (the italics are mineD. G.). Schwartzs question actually reproduces a query of one of Ptolemy Vs courtiers who asked his king
why he did not do anything concerning Coele-Syria, which was his by right. See Diod.
See Schwartz, 2002, 147 (in response to Fuks): The sixth (point) is merely an
argument from silence.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


rebels, and it was only in 185 bce that they were completely defeated.70
Not much of this picture is noted in Schwartzs historical sketch,
which concentrates on the Roman-Seleucid confrontation.71 What is
mentioned is an offhand remark concerning Egypts internal problems and the suggestion that foreign campaigns may even be useful
ways of dealing with them.72 In short, Schwartzs dealings with the
historical background do not only fall short. They are misleading in
the sense that his interpretation denies the events of any historical
context. Leaders and governments can act at will, without taking
account of their position in respect to other powers. While phenomena such as these do happen, they are not the rule. The Ptolemaic
governments abstention from any attack on Seleucid Coele-Syria
until 184 bce is best explained by internal and external constraints.
However, by that date, the position of the Ptolemaic kingdom would
have improved somewhat. The king had matured, and his ministers
of the day had proven their salt by defeating the rebels in Upper and
Lower Egypt. The Seleucid kingdom had been considerably weakened,
having been beaten by Rome, and was forced to withdraw from both
Europe and Asia Minor. The Treaty of Apamea imposed heavily on
the Seleucid kingdom, thereby diminishing its standing. It should
come as no surprise that precisely at this time, we see Ptolemy V
doing something by way of revanche. A Ptolemaic naval force,
headed by Ptolemys synthrophos Aristonicus, raided the island of
Aradus on the Phoenician coast before July, 182 bce. Soon after,
Ptolemy V is reported to have initiated preparations for the re-occupation of Coele-Syria. The king was then killed (180 bce), and his
widow, sister of Seleucus IV, became regent until her death 4 years
later. In view of her family connections and her need to insure that
her son, Ptolemy Philometor, aged 6, retain the throne, preparations
for the war stopped. Following her death, Cleopatra Is wise policy
was abandoned with disastrous results. The policy of restraint in the
years between 197185 bce, born of necessity, had been the right
one.73 This (condensed) survey suggests that once the Seleucid

Will 1982, 10549, 15274, 17893; Gera 1998, 2025, 5983; Hlbl 2001,
13640, 15359.
Schwartz 1998, 4748.
Schwartz 1998, 48 note 4.
Gera 1998, 89105; Hlbl 2001, 141143. Schwartz (1998, 61 note 43), notices
Ptolemy Vs preparations to attack Coele-Syria but ignores the assault on Aradus.


dov gera

kingdom had been weakened, and the rebellions in Egypt had been
crushed, Ptolemy V showed his unwillingness to accept the loss of
Coele-Syria, as is shown by the attack of Aristonicus. Since Schwartzs
argumentation rests on a premise which have been shown to be inaccurate, perhaps the additional argument, that Antiochus III gave the
revenues of Coele-Syria to Ptolemy V, should be rejected without further ado. However, since it might be claimed that the Ptolemaic king
was not willing to satisfy himself with the incomes of Coele-Syria,
and wanted the whole province completely to himself, let us examine
the issue a bit more. Had the revenues of Coele-Syria been allotted to
Ptolemy V and his wife, a limited attack on the Seleucid kingdom,
such as Aristonicus plundering of Aradus, would have been foolhardy. The expected booty could not match a steady, year by year
flow of income from Coele-Syria. The Seleucid king would then have
revoked his fathers undertaking, and Ptolemy V would have been left
without any revenues from Coele-Syria, and without gaining it back.
Furthermore, the understanding that Antiochus the Great gave
Ptolemy V of Egypt a share in the income of Coele-Syria rests on a
reading of Ant. 12.154155.74 However, Holleaux has shown that the
theme of division of revenues between two sovereigns ()
mentioned by Josephus in v. 155 was borrowed by the historian from
the main body of the Tobiad saga (Ant. 12.177178). The French
scholar has further demonstrated that there the reference is to the
separate shares of the Ptolemaic king and queen in the revenues of
Coele-Syria. Once this position is accepted, we are left with no evidence at all of Antiochus III sharing the income of Coele-Syria with
his son-in-law.75 Fuks, criticizing Schwartzs views, mentions a point
in the story where the tax-farmer Joseph is given 2,000 soldiers by
the Ptolemaic king. These were to allow him to exact the taxes by
force, should the need arise. Schwartz treats this point as a matter of
taxation, which according to him does not necessarily imply rule.76
However, the real point here is the ability of the Ptolemaic king to
send his own troops into the area and enforce his wishes, which he
does through Joseph and the soldiers (Ant. 12.181183). Military rule
is a clear sign of sovereignty. Since it is agreed that Antiochus III did

Schwartz 1998, 50.

Holleaux 1942, 34755. Due notice to this was given by Fuks (2001, 354 note 3).
Schwartz in his response (2002), does not address this obstacle to his theory.
Ant. 12.180. See Fuks 2001, 356 (point No. 1) versus Schwartz 2002, 147.

unity and chronology in the jewish antiquities


not relinquish his authority in Coele-Syria (contrary to the statement

in Ant. 12.154),77 the Ptolemaic kings ability to deploy his troops
there can only be accepted if the tale was composed with an underlying assumption that the activities of Joseph, as well as Hyrcanus initial exploits, happened at the time when the Ptolemies ruled
Coele-Syria.78 Hence, the established view is the right one. By placing
the Tobiad story where he did, Josephus committed a chronological
It is mistakes such as these that have earned Josephus a bad name.
Consistency in methodology and accuracy in chronology are not his
strong points. Yet, this should not cloud our vision as to the seriousness with which he regarded his craft. In the Jewish Antiquities he
attempted, to the best of his abilities, to produce a linear, chronologically oriented narrative of the history of his people. As in other
features of his work, a clear cut, black and white picture cannot be

Attridge, Harold W. 1976. The Interpretation of Biblical History in the Antiquitates
Judaicae of Flavius Josephus. Missoula, Mo: Scholars Press.
Begg, Christopher. 1993. Josephus Account of the Early Divided Monarchy (AJ 8,212
420): Rewriting the Bible. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium
108. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
. 2000. Josephus Story of the Later Monarchy (AJ 9,110,185). Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 145. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
. tr. 2005. Translation and Commentary. Flavius JosephusJudean Antiquities
Books 57 (IV). Leiden: Brill.
and Paul Spilsbury. trs. 2005. Translation and Commentary. Flavius Josephus
Judean Antiquities Books 810 (V). Leiden: Brill.
Bickermann, Elias. 1928. Makkaberbcher (Buch I und II). Columns 779797 in vol.
14.1 of PW. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung.
. 2007. A Document Concerning the Persecution by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Pages 376407 in his Studies in Jewish and Christian History2 (I). Edited by A. Tropper. Leiden: Brill.
Bilde, Per. 1988. Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome. JSPSup 2. Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press.
Braude, William G. and Israel J. Kapstein. trs. 1981. Tanna debe Eliyyahu: The Lore of
the School of Elijah. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America.


Schwartz 1998, 61 note 43: . . . Syria was ruling Coele-Syria at the time.
Note also the kings threat to send military settlers to Judea, Ant. 12.159. See
already Holleaux 1942, 343; Tcherikover 1959, 128.
For an explanation of Josephus mistake, see Gera 1998, 37.


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Bchler, Adolph. 1975 (Reprint of the 1899 Edition). Die Tobiaden und die Oniaden
im II. Makkaberbuche und in der verwandten jdisch-hellenistischen Litteratur.
Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag.
Cardauns, Burkhart. 1967. Juden und Spartaner: Zur hellenistisch-jdischen Literatur.
Hermes 95: 317324.
Cogan, Mordechai. tr. 2001. 1 Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 10. New York, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Cohen, Shaye J. D. 1979. Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as
a Historian. Leiden: Brill.
Cuq, douard. 1927. La condition juridique de la Coel-Syrie au temps de Ptolme
V piphane. Syria 8: 143162.
Feldman, Louis H. tr. 2000a. Translation and Commentary. Flavius JosephusJudean
Antiquities 14 (III). Leiden: Brill.
. 2000b. Josephus Portrayal (Antiquitates 5.136174) of the Benjaminite Affair of
the Concubine and its Repercussions (Judges 1921). JQR 90: 255292.
Friedmann (Ish-Shalom), Meir. ed. 1969 (Repr.). Seder Eliahu Rabba and Seder Eliahu
Zuta (Tanna dbe Eliahu). Jerusalem: Wahrmann.
Fuks, Gideon. 2001. Josephus Tobiads Again: A Cautionary Note. JJS 52: 354356.
Gera, Dov. 1990. On the Credibility of the History of the Tobiads (Josephus, Antiquities 12, 156222, 228236). Pages 2138 in Greece and Rome in Eretz Israel. Edited
by A. Kasher, U. Rappaport and G. Fuks. Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi.
. 1998. Judaea and Mediterranean Politics, 219 to 161 B.C.E. Brills Series in Jewish
Studies 8. Leiden: Brill.
Giovannini, Adalberto and Helmut Mller. 1971. Die Beziehungen zwischen Rom und
den Juden im 2. Jh. v. Chr. MH 28: 156171.
Glatt, David A. 1993. Chronological Displacement in Biblical and Related Literatures.
SBL Dissertation Series 139. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press.
Gray, John. 1970. I & II Kings2. The Old Testament Library. London: SCM.
Gruen, Erich S. 1984. The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome (II). Berkeley,
CA.: University of California Press.
. 1997. The Origins and Objectives of Onias Temple. SCI 16: 4770.
. 1998. Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition. Hellenistic
Culture and Society 30. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Guggenheimer, Heinrich W. tr. 1998. Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology. Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson.
Harl, Paul. tr. 1999. La Bible dAlexandrie (VII). Les Juges. Paris: Cerf.
Hengel, Martin. 1974. Judaism and Hellenism. tr. J. Bowden. 2 vols. Philadelphia, PA:
Fortress Press.
Hlbl, Gnther. 2001. A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. tr. T. Saavedra. London:
Holleaux, Maurice. 1942. Sur un passage de Flavius Josphe (Antiqu. Iud. XII, 4,
155). Pages 33755 in his tudes dpigraphie et dhistoire grecques (III). Paris: E.
de Boccard.
Long, Burke O. 1984. 1 Kings: with an Introduction to Historical Literature. FOTL 9.
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
. 1991. 2 Kings. FOTL 10. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Moore, George F. 1895. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
Nodet, tienne. tr. 1995. Flavius Josphe: Les Antiquits Juives (II). Livres IV et V.
Paris: Cerf.
Pucci Ben Zeev, Miriam. 1998. Jewish Rights in the Roman World: The Greek and
Roman Documents Quoted by Josephus. Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).
Rappaport, Salomo. 1930. Agada und Exegese bei Flavius Josephus. Vienna: Alexander
Kohut Memorial Foundation.

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Ratner, Ber. ed. 1988 (Reprint). Midrash Seder Olam. New York, N.Y.: Moznaim Publishing Corporation.
Reinach, Thodore. ed. 1900. Oeuvres compltes de Flavius Josphe (I). Antiquits Judaques livres iv. Paris: Ernest Leroux.
Schalit, Abraham. tr. 1944. Antiquitates Judaicae (I). Jerusalem: Bialik Institute and
Masada (in Hebrew).
Schrer, Emil. 1973. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175
B.C.A.D. 135). (I). Revised and edited by G. Vermes and F. Millar. Edinburgh:
T. & T. Clark.
. 1979. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.A.D.
135). (II). Revised and edited by G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Black. Edinburgh:
T. & T. Clark.
Schwartz, Daniel R. 1998. Josephus Tobiads: Back to the Second Century? Pages 4761
in Jews in a Graeco-Roman World. Edited by M. Goodman. Oxford: Clarendon.
. 2002. Once Again on Tobiad Chronology: Should We Let a Stated Anomaly be
Anomalous? A Response to Gideon Fuks. JJS 53: 146151.
. 2004. The Jews of Egypt between The Temple of Onias, The Temple of Jerusalem, and Heaven. Pages 3755 in Center and Diaspora: The Land of Israel and the
Diaspora in the Second Temple, Mishna and Talmud Periods. Edited by I. M. Gafni.
Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History (in Hebrew).
Sievers, Joseph. 2001. Synopsis of the Greek Sources for the Hasmonean Period: 12
Maccabees and Josephus, War 1 and Antiquities 1214. SubBi 20. Rome: Pontificio
Istituto Biblico.
Spilsbury, Paul. 1998. The Image of the Jew in Flavius Josephus Paraphrase of the Bible.
TSAJ 69. Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Stern, Menahem. 1973. Die Urkunden. trs. J. Maier. Pages 18199 in Literatur und
Religion des Frhjudentums. Edited by J. Maier and J. Schreiner. Wrzburg: Echter
. 1995. Hasmonaean Judaea in the Hellenistic World: Chapters in Political History.
Edited by D. R. Schwartz. Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History
(in Hebrew).
Tcherikover, Victor. 1959. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews. tr. S. Applebaum.
Philadelphia, PA.: The Jewish Publication Society of America.
Thackeray, Henry St. J. and Ralph Marcus. 1934. Translation. Flavius JosephusJewish
Antiquities, Books VVIII (V). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Timpe, Dieter. 1974. Der rmische Vertrag mit den Juden von 161 v. Chr. Chiron
Whiston, William. 1862. Translation. The Works of Flavius Josephus (I). London:
Henry G. Bohn.
Will, Edouard. 1982. Histoire politique du monde hellnistique (32330 av. J.-C.) 2 (II).
Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy.
Will, Edouard and Claude Orrieux. 1986. Ioudasmos-Hellnismos: essai sur le judasme juden l`poque hellnistique. Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy.


Erich S. Gruen

The great Greek historian Polybius set high standards for historical writing. His scorn (or at least professed scorn) for most of his
predecessors was deep. Polybius delivered sharp criticism of armchair
historians who sit in their studies, collect and examine documents,
and write with authority about matters of which they lack all experience. Those who have never engaged personally in politics and war,
he asserted, have no business writing history because they dont know
what they are talking about (12.25g.12, 28a.710).
Josephus, the indispensable historian of the Jews, echoed those
sentiments. In the introduction of the Jewish War, his first composition, he blasts those historians who have written on the subject but
did not take part in the actions (1.1). Much later, in his final work, the
Contra Apionem, he still hammered at that theme. He ripped Greek
historians who write about events in which they played no role. And
he reiterated his contempt for those who published accounts of the
Jewish war but never set foot in the places about which they wrote
(1.4546). It is worth noting that Josephus attacks those who criticized
his history as if it were nothing but a schoolboy exercise entered in a
prize competition (1.53). That appears, as most scholars recognize, to
be based on Thucydides famous comment that his history is a possession for all time, not a prize essay composed for the moment and
then forgotten (Thuc. 1.22). What many have failed to notice, however,
is that this statement also closely resembles a passage in Polybius who
maintains that the purpose of writing history is not to publish a clever
essay but to deliver a lesson that will endure for the indefinite future.1
The parallels in the lives, careers, and attitudes of these two historians, in fact, are quite remarkable. Both reached positions of prominence in the political and military spheres of their respective states,
Polybius as a leader of the Achaean League, a major regional power in
Greece, and Josephus as member of a distinguished family and himself

Polyb. 3.31.1213; Barclay 2007, 39.


erich s. gruen

a Judean general. Both held critical posts in their nations at a time

when they came into conflict with the might of Rome. Polybius was
among those implicated in purported anti-Roman activities during the
Third Macedonian War and was summarily removed to Rome where
he lived as a semi-hostage for close to twenty years. Josephus served as
commander of Jewish forces in Galilee during the great Jewish rebellion, surrendered to the Romans, was released, and, like Polybius,
landed in Rome, where he stayed for more than two decades. Both
wrote the bulk of their work in Rome, under the patronage of Romes
most powerful and influential figures, the house of Aemilius Paullus in
the case of Polybius, the imperial family in the case of Josephus. And,
most importantly, each wrote histories directed, at least in large part,
to their fellow countrymen, defeated and crushed by Rome, histories
that sought to elucidate Roman behavior and explain Roman success
as a lesson to Greeks and Jews respectively.
A compelling motive inspired Polybius whole enterprise: a desire to
trace the rise of Rome to a position of preeminence through which the
city brought the whole Mediterranean world under its sway.2 Resistance to this juggernaut couldand didlead to disaster. Polybius
repeatedly brands the enemies of Rome as irrational, irresponsible,
and even mad.3 That judgment culminates in his bitter and furious
comments about Greek leaders whose reckless actions propelled his
own homeland into an insane conflict with Rome, the Achaean War,
the upshot of which was to cast destruction and calamity upon Greece,
a pitiable fate that the folly of the Greeks brought upon themselves.4
All of this, of course, strikes familiar cords for readers of Josephus.
The Jewish historian fastened blame for the disastrous Jewish War
with Rome upon heedless leaders, afflicted with irrationality, lunatic
schemes, and unreasonable passion that amounted to insanity.5
The rash and headlong destructiveness ascribed by both authors to
their own fellow citizens stemmed, so they argued, from a failure of
understandinga failure to see that the Roman acquisition of world
supremacy was guided by an invisible hand that led to a predetermined
outcome. Polybius characterized the process as , an ambiguous and
tortured term. The historian employs it in more than one sense in his

Polyb. 1.2.78, 1.3.710, 3.1.4.

Polyb. 2.21.2, 5.102.1, 7.27, 8.24.10.
Polyb. 38.1.19, 38.10.613, 38.11.611, 38.12.411, 38.13.8, 38.16.19, 38.18.78.
E.g. War 2.346, 2.395, 2.412, 5.364365, 5.376, 5.406, 6.378, 6.409.

polybius and josephus on rome


history. It often carries the connotation of chance or randomness, even

happenstance. At other times, it comes closer to fate or providence.
Polybius had no rigorous consistency on this score.6 He does, on occasion, even construe the word as an alternative or parallel to the gods.7
Most significantly, he renders as a form of divine fate that guaranteed the success of Rome in bringing the entire world under a single
rule and dominion, something never heretofore accomplished.8 That
striking phraseology expressed his considered judgment and the summation of his agenda.
The similarities with Josephus here cannot be missed. The Jewish
historian also employs the term in the context of transferring
world dominion to the Romans. The speech set in Agrippas mouth to
dissuade the Jews from taking up arms against Rome makes the point
more than once.9 Here too God and seem almost interchangeable.
Agrippa asserts that God has moved to the side of Rome, the role that
he had also assigned to .10 The overlapping between the concepts
makes a striking conjunction. In Josephus formulation, advanced
the aims of Vespasian, a feature that the Roman ascribed to divine
(BJ, 4.622). When Josephus seeks to justify his surrender, he
cites his prayer to God affirming that the divine will accorded with the
passage of to the Romans.11 The point emerges most forcefully in
Josephus own speech outside the walls of the city, at the instigation of
Titus, urging the Jews to yield to the imperial power. There is no use,
he says, in defying the masters of the universe: has passed from
everywhere over to the Romans, and God who has brought imperial
power from nation to nation has now set it in Italy.12

See, e.g. Polyb. 1.2.24, 18.28.5, 29.21.35 (as capricious fortune); 36.17.2 (in the
sense of chance or the unexpected); 15.20.46, 38.7.11, 38.8.8; 39.8.12 (in the sense
of watchful spirit with the power of punishment).
For Polybius varied usages of , see the careful studies of Walbank 1957,
1626; idem. (1972), 6065; Pedech 1964, 33154; and, more recently, Sterling 2000,
Polyb. 10.5.8; 10.9.2: .
Polyb. 1.4.15, 8.2.36, 21.16.8:
War 2.360, 2.373.
War 2.390; cf. 2.360.
War 3.351354: .
War 5.367368; 5.412; esp. 5.367:
. ;
Life, 17. Cf. Price 2005, 11617.


erich s. gruen

The correspondences between these two historians are numerous and

undeniable. Josephus also cites Polybius three times on other matters.13
He plainly knew and evidently read the work of the Achaean historian.
That is now generally acknowledged and need not be re-argued.14 How
far Josephus own attitudes and opinions on the relations of Jews to
the power of Rome owe their formulations to the closely comparable
views of Polybius on the Greeks experience with Roman might and
authority can only be a matter of speculation. The issue requires no
investigation here. Both historians, in any case, writing in Rome in
analogous circumstances and analyzing the reasons (or absence of reasons) that impelled their nations to clash with the masters of the universe only to suffer baleful consequences, reached similar conclusions.
The march of history, whether identified with or with Yahweh,
now sides with Rome, justifies Romes triumph over reckless and selfdestructive rebels, and proclaims the hand of destiny in Roman rule.
It behooves Greek and Jew alike to swim with the tide of the future.
All of this is widely acknowledged in the scholarship.
Yet there is another aspect of the story that has received little attention. Polybius and Josephus are no mere apologists for Roman power.
They recognize the folly of overt resistance to the great behemoth.
And they lament the irrational excesses of their own peoples that
brought catastrophe upon their nations, a lesson to be learned, and
mistakes never to be repeated. But that is not the same as welcoming
the rule of Rome and enjoying the peace, prosperity, and security of
living in the embrace of the empire. Neither Polybius nor Josephus
praises the benefits that Rome brought to the world. Nothing in their
texts hails the establishment of stability, the blessings of civilization, or
the benefactions of Rome to the far-flung regions of the world.15 The
power of Rome and its invincibilitynot its benevolenceconstitute
the recurring motif.
And one can go further. A closer look at the writings of Polybius
and Josephus shows a notable number of criticisms of Rome, some
subtle and veiled, others more direct and undisguised, that give a

Ant. 12.135137, 12.358359; Apion, 2.84; cf. Ant. 12.402.

The case was adumbrated by Cohen 1982, 366381. And the compelling arguments
of Eckstein 1990, 175208, put the connection beyond doubt. See now also HadasLebel 1999, 15965; Mader 2000, 4142, 46, 52; Sterling 2000, 13551; Walbank 2002,
See Stern 1987, 7478 on Josephus, with regard to this point. Cf. Eckstein 1990,

polybius and josephus on rome


different impression of the historians outlook and analysis. They

might not quite qualify as speaking truth to power. But they do suggest a slyly subversive and cautiously cynical perspective that put them
in a category very different from the apologists for empire.
Polybius, to be sure, admired Roman principles and Roman institutions. As is well known, he gives much credit to the strength and
balance of Romes constitution for its imperial success.16 Polybius
reckons the unbroken expansion of Roman territory into the Western and Eastern Mediterranean as a feat of incomparable magnitude.17
But his understanding of Roman behavior was rudely shaken by the
upheavals of the late 150s and early 140s bce, culminating in the
subjugation of his native land. This shock induced Polybius to reconsider his perspective and to attach a whole new portion to his history.
He gives as his reason a desire to assess the character of Roman rule
and to determine whether it merits praise or blame.18 That he should
pose such an issue at all constitutes a powerful statement. The historian here invites his readers to consider the consequences and desirability of the entire Roman enterprise. It would certainly stop any
reader short. Polybius motivation here has been the subject of much
speculation and controversy. This is not the place to settle that matter.
The complex blend of moralism and pragmatism defies a confident
conclusion. But the idea that Polybius considered Roman success as
sufficient to establish the propriety of empire, and that his final books
represented a defense of Roman policy falls well short of persuasion.
Such a verdict cannot adequately account for the series of scornful
observations that Polybius delivers in those books. There is more
going on here. The historian, most probably, sought to leave his readers in no doubt about the nature of Roman behavior, thus to warn
his countrymen by implication against any further suicidal upheaval.19
One looks in vain for an explicit overall evaluation. Perhaps it proved

See, e.g., Polyb. 6.1118 (on the Roman constitution); 24.8.25, 24.10.1112,
24.13.13 (on Roman character).
Polyb. 1.2.17, 3.59.3, 29.21.19.
Polyb. 3.4.7:
. . .
Cf. Gruen 1976, 7475; idem. 1984, 34648, with additional bibliography. For the
view that Polybius became a spokesman for the Roman point of view, see Walbank
1965, 211; 1972 ,16681; 1977, 13962. That interpretation is cogently contested by
Shimron 197980, 94117.


erich s. gruen

too problematicor hazardous. But a notable message comes through.

The historian indulges in a striking sequence of remarks scattered
through the last books of his history that shine a less than flattering
light upon Roman actions.
Polybius repeatedly draws attention to Roman cynicism and selfinterest, to the encouragement of servility among eastern princes, to
deliberate efforts to undermine other states, to devious diplomacy, and
to specious pretexts for the infliction of terror. A number of instances
can illustrate the point. The Roman Senate prompted king Prusias of
Bithynia to appear before them in an outfit normally worn by manumitted slaves and to grovel before them in humiliating and contemptible
fashion (30.18). In the case of Dalmatia, so Polybius claims, Rome
lacked an excuse for making war but invented one for no other reason than to give its troops some work to do, lest they become too
lazy and idle from inactivity (32.13.49). To keep the Seleucid rulers
of Syria in line, a Roman envoy took it upon himself to burn their
warships, hamstring their elephants, and generally degrade the royal
power (31.2.911). And, in a series of arbitration decisions that adjudicated rival claims between Carthaginians and Numidians, Roman
arbiters always decided against the Carthaginians, according to Polybius, not because of the merits of the case but because it was in the
interests of Rome (31.21.56). Indeed, so Polybius observes elsewhere,
the Romans had long since determined to make war on Carthage, and
were simply looking for a pretext that might appear justifiable in the
eyes of others (36.2.14). As Polybius puts it more generally, Romans
adapt their policy for capitalizing on the faults of neighbors in order
to augment their own dominance (31.10.7). And they were indignant
if all affairs were not brought to them and done in accordance with
their wishes (23.17.4).
These passages constitute a remarkable assemblage of comments
and much of Polybius text in these last books is missing. There may
have been a lot more of the same. It misreads Polybius to interpret
these remarks simply as detached observations, even indeed as a positive evaluation of Roman pragmatism. They do not amount to a mere
record of events but to a clear judgment.20 The Greek historian, living

The idea that Polybius analysis was essentially hard-headed, realistic, and nonjudgmental gains expression in several of Walbanks works; see previous note. Petzold
1969, 5364, however, rightly recognized the moral posture of Polybius in the last
books. Eckstein 1995 shows in detail the moral dimension that inheres in much of

polybius and josephus on rome


and writing in Rome, and acquainted with a circle of Roman aristocrats and intellectuals, delivered a sharp assessment. He did not shrink
from exposing what he saw as adulteration and impairment of Roman
character. Romans of an earlier day, he stated, would not compromise principle for cashbut he could no longer make such a confident assertion about Romans of his own day (18.34.618.35.2). Indeed,
the arrival of great wealth in the wake of Romes military triumph
over Perseus deeply affected the deportment of Roman youths. They
indulged in extravagant expenditures and (in Polybius view) disgraceful sexual adventures.21 Expansion across the sea had eroded sensitivity
to moral behavior. Romans had once confiscated works of art from
Syracuse, at least exhibiting some aesthetic interest; now they used
priceless Corinthian paintings as dice boards for the sport of soldiers
(9.10, 39.2). Even more telling, Polybius sets this somber evaluation at
a broader level, beyond the particular case of Rome. As he puts it, the
state that attains unchallenged empire will enjoy prosperity but yield
to extravagance, its citizens absorbed in mutual rivalries; the struggle
for office, wealth, and boastful ostentation will signal the beginnings
of a change for the worse (6.57.56). The institutions and character
of Romes citizenry had gained them an empire. But once they had
acquired that empire, the very qualities that had made it possible
began to unravel and would eventually place it in jeopardy. Polybius
stood in awe of the Roman achievement, but suffered disappointment
and expressed disillusionment. The darker portrait casts its spell.
The darker portrait lurks in Josephus vision as well. Ruthlessness
and terror appear again and again in the actions of Roman military
men. No surprise here, one might argue: war and the crushing of
rebellion naturally call forth such actions; Roman military mentality
engendered them, and the historian simply recorded them. One can
leave aside such actions as demanded by the exigencies of battle and
the ferocity of conflict. But Roman behavior of this sort with regard to
Jews occurs repeatedly in Josephus narrative of events well before the
outbreak of open rebellion. It appears from the start, when Pompey
captured the temple and his troops butchered Jewish priests in the
course of pouring libations and conducting their rituals (War, 1.150;

Polybius history and the intensity of his commitment to an evaluation of behavior on

moral grounds; see, especially, 96117, 22536.
Polyb. 31.25.27.


erich s. gruen

Ant. 14.6667). A decade later Crassus stripped the temple of all its gold,
taking everything that Pompey had left (War 1.179; Ant. 14.105109).
Another ten years passed, and Cassius was in the east, reducing
Judean cities to servitude, so Josephus puts it.22 In the upheavals
after the death of Herod in 4 bce, soldiers of the Roman procurator Sabinus burned the porticoes of the Temple and plundered the
treasury. Whatever remained was simply confiscated by Sabinus
(War 2.4950; Ant. 17.261264). Once Judea became a Roman province, Josephus does not hesitate to set out the transgressions committed by a sequence of governors appointed by the crown. One needs to
look only at his account of Pontius Pilates actions under Tiberius that
included notorious provocations of the Jews and the beating to death
of Jewish protesters (War 2.169177; Ant. 18.5562). In the reign of
Claudius, the Roman governor Ventidius Cumanus quelled turmoil
by killing substantial numbers of Jews.23 His successor Felix also
engaged in widespread executions of Jews and even, according to
Josephus, engineered the murder of a high priest.24
Worse was still to come. Josephus describes the procurator Albinus,
an appointee of Nero, as one for whom there was not a single act of
villainy that he failed to commit.25 But even Albinus wickedness was
far exceeded by that of his successor, Gessius Florus, who, Josephus
says, made Albinus seem by comparison a man of exemplary virtue.26
There is no need to catalogue the acts of iniquity and criminality that
Josephus ascribes to these Roman officials and that led to the outbreak
of the Great Revolt. The Jewish historian certainly did not hold back in
detailing the atrocities of the Roman leadership and the military. It is
telling that in his Vita Josephus asserts that Jews took up arms against
Rome not by choice but out of necessity (27).
This extended to the emperors themselves. Josephus is quick to
recite the failings of the Julio-Claudian rulers. He outlines the grim
and suspicious character of Tiberius, the murderous megalomania of
Gaius Caligula, and the excesses and cruelty of Nero.27 Of course, in


War 1.221222: ; Ant. 14.275.

War 2.236; Ant. 20.110112, 20.122.
War 2.260, 2.270; Ant. 20.160165, 20.177.
War 2.272: .
War 2.277:
; Ant. 20.252253.
Tiberius: Ant. 18.168178, 18.225226; Caligula: War 2.184203; Ant. 18.257303,
19.127, 19.201211; Nero: War 2.250251; Ant. 20.154.

polybius and josephus on rome


each of these cases, Josephus merely follows the consensus of Roman

historians and the portraits that prevailed in the age of the Flavians.
But it is noteworthy that he dwells in considerable detail on the accession of Claudius, following the death of Caligula. Josephus provides a
graphic presentation of Claudius panicked efforts to hide in a closet,
and the need of the Praetorian Guard to drag him out and thrust him
into power against his will, in part through the intervention of the
Jewish king Agrippa.28 The narrative exposes not only the fearfulness
and spinelessness of Claudius but the impotence of the Roman Senate,
the emptiness of aristocratic rhetoric in the face of the troops, and the
raw military power and ruthlessness that lay at the heart of Roman
rule. Josephus does not spare even Vespasian. He calls attention to the
future emperors ruthlessness, the slaughter of captives, the merciless
treatment of young and old, the demolition of villages and towns, and
the enslavement of survivors.29
Nor does Titus himself escape the strictures of the historian.
Josephus, so it is usually assumed, presents a rosy portrait of the man
who led Roman forces at the time of the destruction of the temple.30
After all, Titus became his patron and protector. And Josephus notoriously strains to exculpate Titus from the dastardly deed: the commander
sought to spare the city and its great shrine. If Josephus be believed,
the burning of the temple came against Titus wishes and much to his
sorrow.31 Whatever the credibility of that judgment, it does not form
part of a consistently positive image of the Roman. Josephus more
than once calls attention to atrocities ordered by Tituseven when he
attempts to offer explanations for them. After taking a Galilean city,
for instance, Titus ordered the massacre of every male, old and young,
in that town, and the sale of all women and children into slavery
(War 3.298305). He showed equal unscrupulousness at Jotapata,
where he conducted wholesale slaughter, even having soldiers shove
helpless defenders down a steep incline where they were crushed in a
general mele (War 3.329331). He had no qualms about the torture
and crucifixion of Jewish prisoners (War 5.289, 5.449451). And, for


War 19.212273.
War 3.132134, 3.336338, 3.532542, 4.447448.
See, e.g., Yavetz 1975, 411432; Paul 1993, 5666.
War 1.28, 5.334, 6.124128, 6.214243, 6.254266, 7.112113. Cf. also the occasional reference to Titus pity for the victims of Roman crueltywhich he had himself
allowed; e.g. War 5.449451.


erich s. gruen

relaxation, after the taking of Jerusalem, he enjoyed the spectacles at

Caesarea Philippi and Beirut in which captives in the thousands were
torn apart by wild beasts, perished through gladiatorial combat, or were
consumed by flames (War 7.23, 7.3739).32 All perhaps is fair in war.
But these episodes hardly present an edifying picture of Titus. One can
press the point further. Josephus presentation of Titus generalship
implies more subtly that the commander did not always match Roman
expectations of looking to the safety of his men, enforcing adequate
discipline, and exercising good judgment.33 And, if the destruction of
the Temple did indeed occur against Titus wishes, this surely reflects
ill upon the generals own control of that most critical episode, an inference that Josephus readers could readily drawwithout his having
to spell it out.34 Indeed, despite the labored exculpation of Titus, Josephus elsewhere acknowledges that after the fall of Jerusalem and the
fire the Roman commander ordered the destruction of the city and its
Templea notable signal to his readership (War 7.1.1; Ant. 20.250).
That the Roman empire was a despotic entity emerges without ambiguity from Josephus work. His text makes that point most conspicuously in the famous speech that he puts into the mouth of Agrippa in
attempting to dissuade the Jews from taking up arms against Rome.
Agrippa expounds at length upon the irresistible and invincible might
of Rome that extends over all the known peoples of the world and
against which no opposition stands a chance. And it is telling that
Agrippa repeatedly represents the status of those who dwell under
Roman sovereignty as servitude. He employs the terms ,
, and again and again in that speech.35 He characterizes Roman officials as unbearably harsh (War 2.352). And he refers
to the Romans unabashedly as despots.36 Reduction of the peoples of
the world to the condition of slavery is the main message. The best
that Agrippa can do is to advise the Jews to submit to it rather than
resist it (War 2.361). That hardly constitutes an advertisement for the
blessings of Roman rule.
Roman rule, however, might not endure forever. That prospect
emerges in the pages of both Polybius and Josephus. They suggest a


Cf. Yavetz 1975, 415.

See on this the cogent comments of McLaren 2005, 28287.
Cf. the discussion of Parente 2005, 6169.
War 2.349, 2.355356, 2.361, 2.365, 2.379.
War 2.397: .

polybius and josephus on rome


future without Romea not unwelcome future. Polybius draws a memorable portrait set in the immediate aftermath of Romes destruction
of Carthage. The Roman general Scipio Aemilianus, who headed the
forces that defeated Carthage and ordered its annihilation, was a
friend and former pupil of Polybius. And the historian was present
as flames rose over the city of Carthage. Scipio, so he tells us, burst
into tears, and then explained the reason to Polybius. He wept because
he could foresee another conqueror some day issuing similar orders
for the destruction of Romeand punctuated the prophecy by quoting
Homeric verses on the fate of Troy. The scene left a potent impact
upon Polybius who redrafted it later in moving fashion for his readers.37
The melancholy character of this passage as a reminder of the capriciousness of fortune is not uncharacteristic of Polybius.38 Whether or
not Scipio meant his words as a lugubrious reflection upon Roman
policy, Polybius decision to reproduce them and thus to reaffirm
the reversals that can bring left an ominous cloud over Roman
successas the historian clearly intended.
Allusion to the future fate of Rome appears less dramatically, but
most revealingly, in Josephus writings as well. His lengthy but selective paraphrase of the book of Daniel contains a significant passage.
Daniel was asked to decipher the dream of Nebuchadnezzar regarding the huge image made of various parts (gold, silver, bronze, iron,
and a mixture of iron and clay), then smashed to bits by a stone that
grew to be a great mountain filling the earth (Dan. 2.3135). The
prophet interpreted it as a sequence of kingdoms, the last of which
would be shattered by the kingdom of God that will endure forever.39
In the period when the book of Daniel was composed or completed, in
the 160s bce, the last earthly kingdom can only have been that of the
Hellenistic monarchies. But, by Josephus day, that kingdom was
widely understood to be Rome. Josephus himself asserts that Daniel

Polyb. 38.2122:
. Scipios citation of Homer

appears in Diodorus, 32.24 and Appian, Pun. 132, not in the extant fragment of Polybius.
But both authors make reference to Polybius conversation with Scipio, and there is
no reason to doubt that they found it in his text; see Walbank 1979, 72225. Appian
also ascribes to Scipio a reference to the succession of world empires, including most
recently Macedonia, all of which had met their doom, thus presaging Romes own. It
is not altogether clear that this derives from Polybius. See Mendels 1981, 33334.
Cf. Eckstein 1995, 26870.
Dan. 2:3645. See the commentary of Collins 1993, 16571.


erich s. gruen

had predicted the coming of the Roman empire (AJ, 10.276). In paraphrasing Daniels interpretation of Nebuchadnezzars dream, however,
Josephus stops short of recounting his explanation of the great stone,
referring the reader to Daniels text itself.40 An outright statement
about the kingdom of God eventually pulverizing the Roman empire
might have been impolitic. But Josephus had already said enough for
any knowledgeable readerat least any knowledgeable Jewish reader.
He had no need to be too explicit about it. The eschatological future
was plain enough. Romes demise had already been predestined, and
Josephus made a point of calling attention to it.41
Josephus did not lack subtlety. In addition to the remarks on Daniel
in the Antiquities, Josephus twice more makes veiled allusions to the
eventual fate of the Roman empire, one in his first work, the Jewish
War, and one in his last, the Contra Apionem, In the War he recounts
his own speech to the besieged Jews, urging them to surrender to the
overwhelming force of Roman might. There is no point in resisting the
despots, he says, to whom all are subject.42 He adds further that
has passed to the Romans and that God, having granted supreme rule
to various nations in turn, now rests in Italy.43 The now is notable, and
possibly pregnant with significance. The idea that Rome too will have
its end is unexpressed, but lurks not too far beneath the surface. In the
Contra Apionem Josephus remarks, almost in passing, that only a few
nations have had the opportunity to gain empire () and even
they have suffered changes in fortune () that reduced them
again to servitude.44 He does not elaborate on this. That would have
been superfluous. The implication could hardly be missed.
In short, Polybius and Josephus did indeed share common ground.
Not only in their life experiences as intellectuals and leaders of their
nations who wrote about the subjugation of those nations to Rome,
while being sponsored and subsidized in the land of the conqueror.
But also in their complex and equivocal outlook on the ruling power.
They respected the success of Roman imperialism and they castigated

Ant. 10.210: . . . ,

So, rightly, Mason 1994, 165176; Spilsbury 2003, 1017; idem., 2005, 22425.
War, 5.366: ,
War, 5.367: . Cf. Barclay 2005, 329330.
Apion. 2.127: ;
Barclay 2005, 329; idem. 2007, 235.

polybius and josephus on rome


the calamitous foolishness of contesting its overwhelming might. At

the same time, however, they exposed, in more nuanced fashion,
the oppression and despotic character of the conqueror, and could
look ahead to a time when that conqueror would meet its own fate.
How many Roman readers would pick up on these subversive sentimentsor would carewe cannot know. But acute Greek readers of
Polybius would understand and appreciateas would the discerning
Jewish audiences of Josephus.45

Barclay, J. M. G. 2005. The Empire Writes Back: Josephan Rhetoric in Flavian Rome.
Pages 31532 in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by J. Edmondson,
S. Mason, and J. Rives. Oxford.
2007. Against Apion: Translation and Commentary. (Flavius Josephus. Translation
and Commentary. Edited by S., Mason, vol. 10, Leiden).
Cohen, S. J. D. 1982. Josephus, Jeremiah, and Polybius. History and Theory 21: 366381.
Collins, J. J. Daniel. Minneapolis, 1993.
Eckstein, A. M. 1990. Josephus and Polybius: A Reconsideration. Classical Antiquity
9: 175208.
1995. Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius. Berkeley.
Gruen, E. S. 1976. Rome and the Seleucids in the Aftermath of Pydna. Chiron 6: 7395.
1984. The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome. Berkeley.
Hadas-Lebel, M. 1999. Flavius Josphe entre Polybe et Jrmie. Ktema 24: 15965.
Mader, G. 2000. Josephus and the Politics of Historiography, Leiden.
Mason, S. 1994. Josephus, Daniel, and the Flavian House. Pages 16191 in Josephus
and the History of the Greco-Roman Period. Essays in Memory of Morton Smith. Edited
by F. Parente and J. Sievers. Leiden.
McLaren, J. S. 2005. Josephus on Titus: The Vanquished Writing about the Victor.
Pages 27995 in Josephus and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by
J. Sievers and G. Lembi. Leiden.
Mendels, D. 1981. The Five Empires: A Note on a Propagandistic Topos. AJP 102: 330337.
Parente, F. 2005. The Impotence of Titus, or Flavius Josephuss Bellum Judaicum as an
Example of Pathetic Historiography. Pages 4569 in Josephus and Jewish History in
Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by J. Sievers and G. Lembi. Leiden.
Paul, G. M. 1993. The Presentation of Titus in the Jewish War of Josephus: Two Aspects.
Phoenix 47: 5666.
Pedech, P. 1964. La mthode historique de Polybe. Paris.
Petzold, K.-E. 1969. Studien zur Methode des Polybios und zu ihrer historischen
Auswertung. Munich.
Price, J. 2005. The Provincial Historian in Rome. Pages 10118 in Josephus and Jewish
History in Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by J. Sievers and G. Lembi. Leiden.
Shimron, B. 1979/80. Polybius on Rome: A Reexamination of the Evidence. SCI 5: 94117.

The generous (if not always concurring) comments of Jonathan Price have
produced a number of improvements in this paper.


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Spilsbury, P. 2003. Flavius Josephus on the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. JTS
54: 124.
2005. Reading the Bible in Rome: Josephus and the Constraints of Empire.
Pages 20927 in Josephus and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by
J. Sievers and G. Lembi. Leiden.
Sterling, G. E. 2000. Explaining Defeat: Polybius and Josephus on the Wars with Rome.
Pages 13551 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium, Aarhus, 1999. Edited by J. U.
Kalms. Mnster.
Stern, M. 1987. Josephus and the Roman Empire as Reflected in The Jewish War,
Pages 7180 in Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity. Edited by L. H. Feldman and
G. Hata. Detroit.
Walbank, F. W. 1957. A Historical Commentary on Polybius. Vol. I. Oxford.
1965. Political Morality and the Friends of Scipio. JRS 55: 116.
1972. Polybius. Berkeley.
1977. Polybius Last Ten Books. Pages 39162 in Historiographia Antiqua:
Commentationes Lovanienses in honorem W. Peremans septuagenarii editae. Louvain.
1979. A Historical Commentary on Polybius. Vol. III. Oxford.
2002. Polybius, Rome and the Hellenistic World. Cambridge.
Yavetz, Z. 1975. Reflections on Titus and Josephus. GRBS 16: 411432.


Gunnar Haaland

This volume highlights and explores the crossroads between literary
analysis and historical reconstruction. Most contributions examine the
relationship between what Josephus wrote in Rome and what actually
happenedprimarily in the Land of Israel. Presently, however, I am
concerned with a different kind of historical reconstruction: What is the
relationship between what Josephus wrote and his actual situation in
Rome, his actual audience, the actual response to his writings, etc.?1
The first few lines of Against Apion lead us to such a junction and
raise such questions. In his opening address to Epaphroditus, Josephus
claims that the evidence for Jewish origins and history should be sufficiently demonstrated by his Antiquities (Apion 1.1). He continues:
Since, however, I observe that a considerable number of persons, influenced by the malicious calumnies of certain individuals, discredit the
statements in my history concerning our antiquity, and adduce as proof
of the comparative modernity of our race the fact that it has not been
thought worthy of mention by the best known Greek historians, I consider
it my duty to devote a brief treatise to all these points . . . (Apion 1.23)2

Apparently, Josephus wishes to respond to criticism along two lines.3

He is first of all concerned with the alleged questioning of Jewish
antiquity through references to Greek historiography. Secondarily,
he claims that his critics are inspired by the malicious calumnies
of Apion, Apollonius Molon and others. Presently, we will focus on

This article represents a development of a chapter in my dissertation. See Haaland
2006a, 23542. For a recent commendation of historical inquiry along such lines, see
Mason 2003, 18788.
The writings of Josephus are quoted from the edition of the Loeb Classical
For a similar analysis of the preface as a reference to a two-fold challenge, see
Barclay 2005b, 3133.


gunnar haaland

the former issue, which is Josephus chief concern in roughly the first
quarter of Against Apion (1.1218), whereas we leave out the previous
literary treatments of the Jews and Josephus responses in the later
parts of treatise.4
Chaim Milikowsky takes Josephus reference to contemporaneous
critics mostly at face value:
Quite clearly, he is responding to specific stimuli: someone doubted the
antiquity of the Jews, and instead of simply taking this doubt to be a
sign of the doubters ignorance, Josephus feels the need to prove the
antiquity of the Jews by recourse to the Greek-writing authors of the
Jews neighboring countries.5

Other scholars are more skeptical. Martin Goodman suspects that

these critics were invented by Josephus as straw men to knock
down.6 Erich Gruen, similarly, expresses his strong suspicion that he
(Josephus) has concocted a confrontation on this issue.7 John Barclay
is more specific. He accepts the veracity of Josephus reference to
criticism against Antiquities while suggesting that Josephus has misrepresented the content of the criticism. It was probably more a matter
of cultural insignificance (cf. Apion 1.2: not been thought worthy of
mention) than comparative modernity.8 Most confident on this issue
is Arthur Droge:
Josephus reference to a considerable number of Greeks who doubted
the antiquity of the Jews was a necessary and convenient fiction: necessary
because it provided a pretext for his chronological argument in defense
of Moses unparalleled antiquity; and convenient because the relative
lateness of Greek culture was an easy target.9

Several scholars emphasize that the accounts of the Jews by Manetho, Chaeremon,
Lysimachus and Apion as we have them in Against Apion are the results of Josephus
deliberate, rhetorical adaptation. The anti-Jewish bias of these authors may therefore
originally have been far less conspicuous. See e.g. Barclay 1998, 203, 20621; Gruen
2005; Jones 2005. Moreover, Feldman points out that several of those statements that
provoke Josephus reaction may have appeared quite harmless or even commending
to a different audience. See e.g. Feldman 1996. However, as far as I can see, it remains
that Josephus was not the sole inventor of ancient anti-Jewish polemics.
Milikowsky 2002, 173.
Goodman 2004, 21; cf. Goodman 1999, 52. Karin Keeble, a student of Goodmans,
makes the same point, but is far less reserved. See Keeble 1991, 1516, 2526, 29, 39.
In the end, however, Gruen apparently assumes that Josephus indeed faced such
criticism. See Gruen 2005, 40, 48.
Barclay 2005b, 32.
Droge 1996, 140, cf. 117.

convenient fiction or causal factor?


The suspicion arises for the following reasons, in particular: First,

Jewish antiquity appears to have been widely recognized in Josephus
days. Second, and more specifically, it is claimed that no such charge
against the Jews is preserved anywhere else in the literature from antiquity.10 Third, and even more specifically, Josephus failure to name his
critics, let alone provide literary evidence for the questioning of
Jewish antiquity, gives reason for suspicion.11 Fourth, the introduction of such criticism serves Josephus rhetorical strategies, as Droge in
particular emphasizes.12 Of these four points, the first and the third can
be treated quite briefly, whereas the second and the fourth demand a
more thorough discussion.

Jewish Antiquity and the Recent Culture of the Greeks

First of all, the questioning of Jewish antiquity based on Greek evidence
is indeed quite conspicuous. Not only was there a widespread consensus regarding the relative lateness of Greek culture ever since Herodotus and Plato,13 the antiquity of the Jews was also well established
from Hecataeus of Abdera and onwards. The Jewish way of life was
certainly subject to skepticism and ridicule, but it mostly appears as if
Jewish antiquity was presupposed.
Evidence for the wide recognition of Jewish antiquity is even found
within Against Apion. At the beginning of the final part of the treatise
(Apion 2.145296), Josephus refers to our legislator, who lived in the
remotest past and adds the following comment: that, I presume, is

See e.g. Pilhofer 1990, 216; Keeble, 15; Goodman 2004, 21; Barclay 2005b, 32;
Gruen 2005, 40.
See e.g. Gruen 2005, 4041.
Keeble 1991, 2526, 28, adds some additional arguments that are less convincing and partly circular: The questioning of Jewish antiquity seems fictitious because
it provides a convenient opportunity for Josephus to highlight his skills as historian,
because he is concerned about providing evidence for the truth of the accusation, and
because he disguises its artificial nature by treating it alongside of genuine criticism.
See e.g. Herodotus, Hist. 2 passim. For Greek dependence upon Egyptian legislation, see e.g. Herodotus, Hist. 2.177. For the antiquity of Egyptian records and
genealogies, see e.g. Herodotus, Hist. 2.100, 14243; Cicero, Resp. 3.14. For Greek
philosophers learning from Egyptian priests, see e.g. Plato, Tim. 22; Isocrates,
Bus. 2223, 28; Diodorus 1.96; Plutarch, Is. Os. 10. For scholarly discussions, see e.g.
Lewy 1938, 21528, 234; Schublin 1982, 31821; Smelik and Hermerlijk 1984,
18731876; Pilhofer 1990, 1775; Droge 1996, 11921; Feldman 1998, 22930;
Berthelot 2000; Gruen 2005, 4041; Barclay 2005b, 3739.


gunnar haaland

admitted even by our most unscrupulous detractors (Apion 2.156). And

toward the end, he returns to Moses chronological superiority compared with those other legislators (Apion 2.279) as an apparently
uncontroversial matter. Hence Greek critics questioning the antiquity
of the Jews indeed appear as an easy target.
In this connection, I would add that in Against Apion Josephus
deliberately casts the attacks on Jewish character as Egyptian and
the questioning of Jewish antiquity as Greek.14 We can only surmise that both charges were brought forward by Romans, as well, but
it is clearly most convenient for Josephus to direct his counterattacks
against Egyptians of poor character and Greeks of recent origin. So far,
Josephus Greek critics seem suspicious.

Josephus anonymous critics

This brings us to the third point, namely Josephus failure to identify
his critics. He is clearly referring to criticism that has emerged during
the few years that has passed since the publication of Antiquities. We
should hardly expect literary evidence from within such a limited time
span. And Josephus may have had good reasons not to name his critics.
From convenience or cowardice, as Aryeh Kasher puts it,15 Josephus
probably wished to avoid confrontation with more influential and powerful antagonists.16 In other words, Josephus anonymous critics alert
us about the importance of his rhetorical strategies, but this point is
mostly insignificant as evidence against the veracity of Josephus claims
that his critics have dismissed the notion of Jewish antiquity.

Jewish Antiquity and Josephus Rhetorical Strategies

What, then, about Droges claim that the questioning of Jewish antiquity
serves as a necessary . . . fiction, because it provided a pretext for his

See e.g. Haaland 2006a, 20930.

Kasher 1996, 152.
Kasher 1996, 15152, suggests that Josephus is referring to both Roman and
Greek authors and names Tacitus, Quintilian, Martial, Juvenal, Epictetus, Plutach and
others as possible candidates. According to Gruen 2005, 32, Barclays commentary on
Against Apion (which had not yet appeared when this article was written) similarly
leaves open to possibility that Josephus refers to Romans who give credence to Greek
historians. As Gruen correctly notes, Apion 1.15 implies that Josephus critics are
Greeks, but in my view, this passage does not settle the case conclusively.

convenient fiction or causal factor?


chronological argument in defense of Moses unparalleled antiquity?

In fact, Josephus ardent and extensive defense of Jewish antiquity,
which covers most of the first part of Against Apion (1.1218), simply
does not fulfill the function assigned to it by Droge. In this part of
the treatise there is no chronological argument in defense of Moses
unparalleled antiquity. Josephus main point throughout this first part
is to prove the antiquity of the Jews, but not their unparalleled antiquity. This emerges from the attacks on Greek historiography, from
the association of Jewish historiography to that of Egypt, Phoenicia
and Babylonia, from the attempt to explain the silence of most Greek
authors about the Jews, and from the quotations from Egyptian, Phoenician and Babylonian sources accompanied by detailed discussions
of chronology (Apion 1.103105, 108, 126127; cf. 2.1519). All these
points underscore Josephus general claims for Jewish antiquity, but
only at the expense of the Greeks. The antiquity of the Egyptian, Phoenician and Babylonian cultures is presupposed. Josephus never makes
any attempt to argue that the Jewish civilization is more ancient than
any of those.
Of course, the chronological superiority of the Jewish civilization
compared to that of the Greeks is an important premise for his later
claims about unparalleled antiquity, but this more daring point is
made only in the final part of Against Apion (2.145296). And this
point is not established by any chronological argument, but mainly
by narrative and rhetorical means. First, we should observe how Egypt
and all her hosts disappear from Against Apion by the death of Apion,
which is recorded with scorn and rudeness to the maximum of Josephus capacity (Apion 2.144).17 Moses, on the other hand, leads the
Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert (Apion 2.157158), and
provides for them the best laws possible (Apion 2.158161). Hence
Moses and the Jews are left behind as the sole representatives of the
ancient Near East in the final part of the treatise.18
At this point there is a conspicuous difference between the first and
the final part of Against Apion: At the outset, the Egyptian culture,
accompanied by that of Phoenicians and Babylonians, is presented as

Note that the Egyptian priests are spared from this character assassination. See
Apion 1.140144. With rhetorical efficiency Josephus pictures them as the keepers of
historical records and upholders of ancient tradition in the first part of Against Apion
(1.1218), and avoids any mention of their position and functions within the Egyptian
cult at the end of the third part. See Barclay 2004, 112.
Egypt only reemerges as Josephus summarizes his argument at the very end of
the treatise (Apion 2.289).


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an ancient civilization from which the Greeks have learned (Apion

1.814). In the final part of the treatise (Apion 2.145296), however,
the Jewish culture takes on this role alone (Apion 2.154, 168, 255257,
279286, 293295). Quite conspicuously, Josephus provides no
cross-reference back to his previous chronological argument.19 Even if
Josephus could successfully make a chronological argument for Jewish
antiquity, he could hardly prove chronologically that Moses was the
first of all legislators (Apion 2.154) and the Jewish culture the source
of all civilizations (Apion 2.293295). Instead of involving himself in
futile argumentation, Josephus makes his case for Jewish supreme
antiquity by sophisticated, rhetorical means.
Another element in Josephus argument contributes to placing
Moses and the Jews in this position, namely the way he narrows the
motive of Greek dependence upon barbarians, which appears already
at the outset of Against Apion (1.14), to the dependence of Greek
philosophers upon Moses mainly regarding the perception of God
(Apion 2.168, 255, 281). Within the context of philosophical theology,
there is no roomor needfor Egyptians, Phoenicians and Babylonians. Only the Jews could reasonably be presented as the source of
the abstract concepts of the deity propounded by several Greek schools
of philosophy.20
Thus, it turns out that the first part of Against Apion (1.1218) makes
little sense if the questioning of Jewish antiquity was fabricated by
Josephus himself. Contrary to Droges claim, such a fictionno matter
how convenientwould by no means be necessary. Josephus detailed
argument for Jewish antiquity would rather be disturbing and pointless if the opposite case were unthinkable and incredible; only if the
questioning of Jewish antiquity were a real challenge would Josephus
argument be necessary.

More on General Plausibility and Josephus Rhetorical Strategies

Despite its attractiveness at first sight, the idea that Josephus fabricated
the questioning of Jewish antiquity does not appear to be entirely
plausible considering the larger argument of which it is a part. Instead,


See Gerber 1997, 9899; Gerber 1999, 264.

See e.g. Kasher 1996, 154.

convenient fiction or causal factor?


along with Milikowsky, I will pursue an interpretation of Against Apion

that makes Josephus opening words a positive point of departure. It
is first of all highly plausible that Antiquities caused suspicion and
criticism from Greek intellectuals and their supporters. It is also quite
likely that such criticism was based largely on the lack of references to
the Jews in Greek sources, as Josephus claims. What more can we infer
about this Greek criticism against Antiquities? Droge admits that a
Greek reader of the Antiquities might well dispute Josephus description of Jewish origins.21 John Barclay points to cultural insignificance
as a likely focus of Greek criticism, which helps explain the purpose of
Josephus Greek evidence toward the end of Against Apions first part
(Apion 1.161218).22 In fact, this material is insignificant in relation to
the question of antiquity, but valuable as evidence for Greek respect,
admiration and friendliness toward the Jews.
In addition, however, I will argue that it is highly plausible that
certain criticsor even a considerable number, as Josephus claims
(Apion 1.2)simply dismissed Josephus account of Jewish history
including his claims about Jewish antiquity. First, there is no reason to
assume that Josephus was the only intellectual of his time that did not
always stick to strict logic and indisputable arguments.23 From the point
of view of a conservative Roman, the Jews represented a new superstition in the city and Josephus claims for Jewish antiquity may have
been carelessly dismissed without serious consideration. Second, there
was a general skepticism toward exaggerated claims about the antiquity of eastern nations, as Barclay points out.24 Third, Josephus declares
in the preface of Antiquities that the Jewish sacred Scriptures . . .
embrace the history of five thousand years (Ant. 1.13). If this figure
is interpreted not as a dating of the creation of the world, but as a
dating of the emergence of the Jewish people, it would clearly represent a gross exaggeration. In fact, when Josephus repeats the same
number in Against Apion, his wording lends itself to exactly this (mis)-


Droge 1996, 118 (original emphasis).

Barclay 2005b, 32.
Several studies of Josephus rhetoric in Against Apion have demonstrated that his
argumentation is more impressive by its power than convincing by its logic and consistency. See e.g. Schublin 1982, 31821, 32628; S. Cohen 1988, 49; Van Henten and
Abusch 1996, 307309; Barclay 1998, 221; Barclay 2005a, 325, 331; K. Jones 2005. The
comprehensive argumentation analysis of Apion 2.145296 in Gerber 1997, 12255,
also points out certain shortcomings and flaws. See e.g. Gerber 1997, 176.
Barclay 2005b, 3839.


gunnar haaland

understanding: the extreme antiquity of our Jewish race, the purity

of the original stock, and the manner in which it established itself in
the country which we occupy today. That history embraces a period
of five thousand years (Apion 1.1). Later in Against Apion, however,
he gives more modest figures: He estimates the period from the birth
of man down to the death of the lawgiver to be only a little short
of three thousand years (Apion 1.39), thereby (probably) implying
that Moses lived approximately two thousand years back in time.
This corresponds fairly well with his subsequent claim that the exodus
preceded the Trojan War by nearly a thousand years (Apion 1.104).
Yet I see no reason to doubt that even these more moderate figures
could instigate objections from Josephus contemporaries, just as they
certainly would from modern scholars.25

No Evidence for the Questioning of Jewish Antiquity?

My remaining points take issue with the contention that, apart from
Against Apion 1.2, there is no evidence for the questioning of Jewish
antiquity in the extant sources.
First, Goodman points out an interesting parallel in Origins Against
Celsus.26 Apparently, Celsus considered the notion of Jewish antiquity
ridicules, shameless and undocumented: They shamelessly undertook
to trace their genealogy back to the first offspring of sorcerers and
deceivers . . . in spite of the fact that throughout the length of past history such an idea has never even been claimed . . . yet now the Jews
make claims about them in answer to certain others. (Cels. 4.33, 35)27
Just like Josephus, Origen challenges both the cultural hegemony of
the Greek tradition in general and the chronological argument of his
antagonist in particular (Cels. 4.3336).
The second point relates to the chronological argument of
Josephus antagonists. According to Josephus, Apion dates the exodus to the seventh Olympiad, and in the first year of that Olympiad
(Apion 2.17). As H. St. John Thackeray notes, this brings us to the
middle of the eighth century bce,28 which would make the establish25

See Foakes Jackson 1930, 20; Goode 1935, 25. This obvious point has been
neglected by recent scholarship.
See Goodman 1999, 52; cf. e.g. Feldman 1990, 108115.
Quoted from Chadwick 1965, 20911.
See comment in the margin ad locum and footnote to Apion 2.156.

convenient fiction or causal factor?


ment of the Jewish nation a relatively recent event, even according to

Greek standards. The dating of the exodus to the reign of Bocchoris
by Lysimachus (preserved in Apion 1.305) and Tacitus (Hist. 5.3) also
most likely points toward the eighth century bce.29
Third, Josephus presupposes skepticism toward Jewish antiquity
already in Antiquities, as I have noted elsewhere.30 In his speech to
Agrippa concerning the rights of the Ionian Jews, Nicolaus of Damascus
makes the following claim: Now our customs are excellent in themselves, if one examines them carefully, and they are also ancient, even
though some may not believe this (Ant. 16.44). Hence the questioning
of Jewish antiquity is clearly not a feature that Josephus conveniently
invents for the sake of his argument in Against Apion. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that Jewish claims for antiquity in general,
and the claims of Josephus in Antiquities in particular, were indeed
subject to an amount of doubt and criticism.

A Convenient Point of Departure, Not a Necessary Fiction

This way of reasoning can be summarized by rephrasing the evaluation
of Droge quoted above: Josephus reference to a considerable number
of Greeks (or people that trusted Greek historiography) that doubted
the antiquity of the Jews was an urgent and convenient starting point. It
was urgent because antiquity was equal with significance, prominence
and honor in Josephus world.31 And as Droge correctly remarks, it
was convenient because the relative lateness of Greek culture was an
easy target.32

Abandoning the Greeks

If we assume that Against Apionat least partlywas caused by criticism
against Antiquities from Greeks or from Romans that treasured the
Greek culture (at least as long as it served their criticism of Josephus),
not only the extensive defense of Jewish antiquity at the expense of the

See e.g. Thackerays footnote to Apion 1.305; Stern 19741978, 1:385; 2:3536.
See Haaland 2002, 5556.
See e.g. Apion 2.151; Droge 1996, 125.
See the similar statement by Gruen 2005, 41: It certainly allowed Josephus to
discredit the idea quite easily and unequivocally. A neat set-up.


gunnar haaland

Greeks in the first part of the treatise (Apion 1.1218) makes sense;
we may even be close to a reasonable explanation for the rather comprehensive anti-Greek rhetoric of the final part (Apion 2.145296).
Apparently, Josephus previous attempts to present Jewish culture on
Greek premises in Antiquities did not succeed.33 We may easily envisage how he may have been dismissed by influential Greeks, or by more
or less philhellene Romans. As a result, Josephus abandons his previous strategy. Instead of making attempts to picture Jews and Judaism
in Greek dress as in Antiquities, he frames Against Apion as a presentation of his native culture in Roman terms.34

Josephus AudienceBenevolent or Skeptical?

Steve Mason has repeatedly argued that Josephus addresses an audience of benevolent gentiles throughout his writings.35 However, if our
present interpretation of Against Apion in general and its opening lines
in particular is correct, if Josephus claims about Jewish antiquity in
Antiquities was indeed subject to serious criticism, then we encounter
a reader response of a totally different nature than the one Mason has
envisioned. And nonetheless, Josephus continues to address exactly
the same kind of audience. This ambiguity precludes any clear and
simple conclusion about the attitude of Josephus audience toward his
message.36 Even if I have presently argued for an at face value reading of Against Apion 1.2, I would definitely not recommend such an
approach as a general rule within Josephan scholarship.

In Antiquities, Josephus treats the Greeks politely and favorably from the very
beginning to the very end, with a nasty comment in Ant. 1.121 as the only exception. In general, Greek culture serves as a positive point of reference and standard of
measurement. See e.g. Haaland 2002, 5354, 56; Haaland 2006a, 229; Haaland 2006b,
272, 284.
The Roman character and context of Contra Apionem is emphasized in much
recent scholarship. See e.g. Goodman 1994, 33435; Goodman 1999; Haaland 1999;
Haaland 2005; Barclay 2000; Barclay 2005a. I am indebted to Professor Oskar Skarsaune for the suggested explanation of this feature.
See e.g. Mason 1996; Mason 2000, xviixx; Mason 2001, xixxxi; Mason 2005.
For further elaboration, see Haaland 2006a, 24360, particularly 25457.

convenient fiction or causal factor?


Barclay, John M. G. 1998. Josephus v. Apion: Analysis of an Argument. Pages 194221
in Understanding Josephus: Seven Perspectives. Edited by Steve Mason. JSPSup 32.
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
. 2000. Judaism in Roman Dress: Josephus Tactics in the Contra Apionem. Pages
23145 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Aarhus 1999. Edited by Jrgen U.
Kalms. Mnsteraner Judaistische Studien 6. Mnster: Lit.
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Apion. Pages 10927 in Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the Roman Empire.
Edited by John M. G. Barclay. Library of Second Temple Studies 45. London: T&T
Clark. Preliminary version pages 32758 in SBL Seminar Papers, 2000. SBLSP 39.
Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.
. 2005a. The Empire Writes Back: Josephan Rhetoric in Flavian Rome. Pages
31532 in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by Jonathan Edmondson,
Steve Mason and James Rives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
. 2005b. Judean Historiography in Rome: Josephus and History in Contra
Apionem Book 1. Pages 2943 in Josephus and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and
Beyond. Edited by Joseph Sievers and Gaia Lembi. JSJSup 104. Leiden: Brill.
. 2006. Against Apion. Vol. 9 of Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary.
Edited by Steve Mason. Leiden: Brill.
Berthelot, Katell. 2000. The Use of Greek and Roman Stereotypes of the Egyptians by
Hellenistic Jewish Apologists, with special reference to Josephus Contra Apionem.
Pages 185221 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Aarhus 1999. Edited by
Jrgen U. Kalms. Mnsteraner Judaistische Studien 6. Mnster: Lit.
Chadwick, Henry. 1965. Origen: Contra Celsum. 2d ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cohen, Shaye J. D. 1988. History and Historiography in the Against Apion of Josephus.
Pages 111 in Essays in Jewish Historiography. Edited by Ada Rapoport-Albert.
History and Theory Beiheft 27. Middletown: Wesleyan University. Repr., South
Florida Studies in the History of Judaism 15. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991.
Droge, Arthur J. 1996. Josephus between Greeks and Barbarians. Pages 11542 in
Josephus Contra Apionem: Studies in its Character and Context with a Latin
Concordance to the Portion Missing in Greek. Edited by Louis H. Feldman and
John R. Levison. AGJU 34. Leiden: Brill.
Feldman, Louis H. 1990. Origens Contra Celsum and Josephus Contra Apionem: The
Issue of Jewish Origins. VC 44: 105135.
. 1996. Reading between the Lines: Appreciation of Judaism in Anti-Jewish Writers Cited in Contra Apionem. Pages 25070 in Josephus Contra Apionem: Studies in
its Character and Context with a Latin Concordance to the Portion Missing in Greek.
Edited by Louis H. Feldman and John R. Levison. AGJU 34. Leiden: Brill.
. 1998. Josephuss Interpretation of the Bible. Hellenistic Culture and Society 27.
Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.
Foakes Jackson, F. J. 1930. Josephus and the Jews: The Religion and History of the Jews
as Explained by Flavius Josephus. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1977.
Gerber, Christine. 1997. Ein Bild des Judentums fr Nichtjuden von Flavius Josephus:
Untersuchungen zu seiner Schrift Contra Apionem. AGJU 40. Leiden: Brill.
. 1999. Des Josephus Apologie fr das Judentum: Prolegomena zu einer Interpretation von C 2:145ff. Pages 25169 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Brssel 1998. Edited by Jrgen U. Kalms and Folker Siegert. Mnsteraner Judaistische
Studien 4. Mnster: Lit.


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Goode, Alexander D. 1935. A Detailed Analysis and Critical Discussion of Josephus

On the Antiquity of the Jews against Apion. Unpublished essay. Hebrew Union
Goodman, Martin. 1994. Josephus as Roman Citizen. Pages 99106 in Josephus and
the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith. Edited
by Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers. StPB 41. Leiden: Brill.
. 1999. Josephus Treatise Against Apion. Pages 4558 in Apologetics in the Roman
Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians. Edited by Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman,
and Simon Price. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
. 2004. Trajan and the Origins of Roman Hostility to the Jews. Past & Present
182: 329.
Gruen, Erich S. 2005. Greeks and Jews: Mutual Misperceptions in Josephus Contra
Apionem. Pages 3151 in Ancient Judaism in its Hellenistic Context. Edited by Carol
Bakhos. JSJSup 95. Leiden: Brill.
Henten, Jan Willem van and Raanan Abusch. 1996. The Jews as Typhonians and
Josephus Strategy of Refutation in Contra Apionem. Pages 271309 in Josephus
Contra Apionem: Studies in its Character and Context with a Latin Concordance
to the Portion Missing in Greek. Edited by Louis H. Feldman and John R. Levison.
AGJU 34. Leiden: Brill.
Haaland, Gunnar. 1999. Jewish Laws for a Roman Audience: Toward an Understanding of Contra Apionem. Pages 282304 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium
Brssel 1998. Edited by Jrgen U. Kalms and Folker Siegert. Mnsteraner Judaistische Studien 4. Mnster: Lit.
. 2002. Addressing the Romans on Behalf of the Jews: A Rhetorical Analysis of
Antiquitates 16.3157. Pages 4258 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Paris
2001: Studies on the Antiquities of JosephusEtudes sur les Antiquits de Josphe.
Edited by Folker Siegert and Jrgen U. Kalms. Mnsteraner Judaistische Studien
12. Mnster: Lit.
. 2005. Josephus and the Philosophers of Rome: Does Contra Apionem Mirror
Domitians Crushing of the Stoic Opposition? Pages 297316 in Josephus and Jewish History in Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by Joseph Sievers and Gaia Lembi.
JSJSup 104. Leiden: Brill.
. 2006a. Beyond Philosophy: Studies in Josephus and His Contra Apionem. Dr.
theol. diss. MF Norwegian School of Theology.
. 2006b. What Difference Does Philosophy Make? The Three Schools as a Rhetorical
Device in Josephus. Pages 26288 in Making History: Josephus and Historical
Method. Edited by Zuleika Rodgers. JSJSup 110. Leiden: Brill.
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36: 278315.
Kasher, Aryeh. 1996. Polemic and Apologetic Methods of Writing in Contra Apionem.
Pages 14386 in Josephus Contra Apionem: Studies in its Character and Context with
a Latin Concordance to the Portion Missing in Greek. Edited by Louis H. Feldman
and John R. Levison. AGJU 34. Leiden: Brill.
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University of Oxford.
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31: 205235.
Mason, Steve. 1996. The Contra Apionem in Social and Literary Context: An Invitation
to Judean Philosophy. Pages 187228 in Josephus Contra Apionem: Studies in its
Character and Context with a Latin Concordance to the Portion Missing in Greek.
Edited by Louis H. Feldman and John R. Levison. AGJU 34. Leiden: Brill.
. 2000. Introduction to the Judean Antiquities. Pages xiiixxxviii in Judean
Antiquities 14, by Louis H. Feldman. Vol. 3 of Flavius Josephus: Translation and
Commentary. Edited by Steve Mason. Leiden: Brill.

convenient fiction or causal factor?


. 2001. Life of Josephus. Vol. 9 of Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary.

Edited by Steve Mason. Leiden: Brill.
. 2003. Contradiction or Counterpoint? Josephus and Historical Method. Review
of Rabbinic Judaism 6: 145188.
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Context of a Flavian Audience. Pages 71100 in Josephus and Jewish History in
Flavian Rome and Beyond. Edited by Joseph Sievers and Gaia Lembi. JSJSup 104.
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JSJSup 74. Leiden: Brill.
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Harvard University Press. Repr. in 10 and 13 vols.


Gohei Hata

One of the most important historical sites in Egypt for students of
Judaism in the Hellenistic and Roman periods would be the temple
site of Onias IV. This temple was built around the middle of the second century bce and continued to exist for more than two hundred
and twenty years until it was destroyed on the order of Vespasian.
Josephus refers to the founder of the temple, as well as its size, its
size, location, duration, and destruction both in the Jewish War and
in the Jewish Antiquities, but some serious discrepancies exist between
these two works.1 W. M. Flinders Petrie, the Father of Modern Egyptology, who read the works of Josephus in his own way, excavated
Tell el Yehudiyeh in 1905 and 1906, and claimed that Tell el Yehudiyeh was the site of Onias temple.2 Since the publication of his
archaeological report in 1906, quite a few scholars have argued both
in support of and against Petries identification of Onias temple with
Tell el Yehudiyeh.3
One of the serious discrepancies between the Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities is
the construction period of the temple and the name of the person who put the project
into action. According to the War 1:3133 and 7:423, the person who built the temple
was Onias III who, according to the Second Book of Maccabees 4:34, was slain by the
hand of Menelaus. This Onias III fled to Alexandria from Jerusalem when Antiochus
IV Epiphanes of Syria was at war with the Jews (War 7:423), that is, in 166 bce. On
the other hand, according to Ant. 12:385387, Onias (IV), the son of the high priest
(Onias III) left Jerusalem when the high priesthood was given to Alcimus. This would
indicate that Onias (IV) fled to Alexandria around 162 bce, and this would also indicate that the construction of the temple started after 162 bce. According to War 7:436,
the duration of the temple from the erection to its closure by the order of Vespasian
was three hundred and forty-three years. We would speculate that Vespasian ordered
Lupus, the governor of Alexandria, to close (or destruct) the temple in 71 ce or later,
and our speculation would suggest that the construction of the temple started around
272 or 271 bce. As H. St. J. Thackeray says in his footnote to his English translation
of the War in the LCL, the figure mentioned in the text is wrong.
Petrie, 1906, 1927, and especially his conclusions about the site of Onias temple
on page 27.
See Feldman 1984, 459463 and also the bibliography Bohak 1996.


gohei hata

In this paper, (1) we propose that our Onias was Onias IV, who was
defeated in Jerusalem in the power struggle over the legitimacy of high
priesthood and as a result fled to Egypt; (2) we suggest that Josephus
himself visited the temple of Onias IV when he was temporarily staying in Alexandria on his way back to Jerusalem from Rome in the year
66 ce; (3) we argue against Petries identification, and put forward
the suggestion that the place named Bubastis (the present Tell Basta)
is the site of Onias IVs temple; (4) we refer to past excavations of
Bubastis by Edouard Naville and Labib Habachi;4 (5) we report on our
preliminary survey on Bubastis in 2005 and 2006. In our survey, we
have located Bubastiagria of Josephus5 on the site of the present Tell
Basta; and finally, (6) in our concluding remarks, we would emphasize
the importance of excavations in the site of Onias IVs temple.

Historical Backgound of the Temple of Onias IV

There occurred a serious power struggle between the high priest of
the Hasmonean family and Onias IV, son of Onias III who was a high
priest in Jerusalem before he was treacherously killed by his political
rival in 175 bce.6 It was quite natural for Onias IV to claim the high
priesthood because it belonged to the traditional high priest family.
We do not know how long this power struggle lasted in Jerusalem,
but one thing is clear: Onias IV and his supporters were defeated. As
a result, Onias IV and his supporters, some priests and some Levites
in Jerusalem, fled to Egypt via Pelusium in the middle of the second
century bce. Where did they go? No one knows for sure, but we may
speculate that they fled to Alexandria because it was a city with a
strong Jewish community. Josephus, however, has nowhere given us
any hint of the size of this group. If it were a small group, they might
have been temporarily received as a group of refugees by the Jewish
community in Alexandria. But, if it were a large one, they might not
have been welcomed in Alexandria from the outset. However, even if
the group was small, yet the reason for their escape into Alexandria
went against the interest of the Alexandrian Jewish community, which

Naville, 1891.
Josephus first mentions the name of Bubastis-of-the Field (or the Field-of-Bubastis)
in the Ant. 13:66 and then in the Ant. 13:70 in the same form.
2 Macc 4:34.

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


had been supporting the temple in Jerusalem, they may not have been
made welcome. Even if it were the case that they had been received for
a short time, they might have felt uncomfortable among their fellow
Jews in Alexandria.
What on earth do people do when they feel uncomfortable and
unwelcome in a place to which they have fled? Certainly they would
seek a new haven. If Onias IV and his supporters felt uncomfortable
in Alexandria, they might well have left this city early and looked for
a new haven in some other Jewish communities of the Lower Nile
Delta. However, if they were not warmly received even in other Jewish
communities, what would they have done? They would have had one
option; they would have had to build their own haven by their own
hands. They could build their own temple because Onias IV was in
a position to claim the High Priesthood, and because some of his
supporters were, as we have already mentioned, priests and Levites
from the temple of Jerusalem. Of course, they needed a piece of land
large enough to build a temple, and their community around it. They
looked for the land, and finally found the totally abandoned site of the
Egyptian temple in Bubastisagria (Bubastis-of-the Field, or the Field of
Bubastis, the present Tell Basta) which, as Herodotus (484?425?bce)
suggests, was once one of the largest thriving cities in the Delta.7 There,
all the pillars and stones of the old temple had fallen down, and no
one had removed them. Onias IV acquired this site and he ordered
the builders to use the pillars and stones of the old temple for building
their new temple. If hieroglyphic signs had been inscribed upon the
surface of some of the pillars and stones, they simply scraped them off.
The history of Egyptian temples teaches us that when they built a new
temple, they often used the old pillars and stones. The idea of recycling
construction materials is very old indeed.

The place name Bubastis appears in the History of Herodotus. In Book II.59, he
refers to the name of the town called Bubastis, in Book II.60 to the annual great festival
of the town, and in Book III.137 to the canals and the temple of goddess Bubastis
which, according to him, is equal to Greek Artemis. Although the relationship
between the goddess in the form of a cat and the temple he mentions is not clear, in
Book II.66, Herodotus refers to a custom of the people who brought the dead cat to a
burial place of Bubastis for mummification. Besides these interesting pieces of information, in Book XVI.49 and Book LI, Diodorus of Sicily refers briefly to the invasion
of Artaxerxes and his pillage and destruction of the temple, and in Book XVII.1.27,
Strabo refers to the town and the nomos (state) of Bubastis. Besides these references
we could find the place name no Bubastis but Bubastos in the Greek translation of
the Book of Ezekiel 30.17.


gohei hata

We have already suggested that Onias IV acquired this land. On

the basis of Josephuss account, it is now possible to say that Onias
IV petitioned Ptolemy VI (180146 bce) to grant him this abandoned
place, but it is also possible to imagine that some Jewish people of
later generations after the death of Onias IV, in an attempt to justify
Onias IVs acquisition of the land, created a story that Ptolemy VI and
his queen Cleopatra had granted him this abandoned place. Here we
would like to emphasize that even if the overall story of land acquisition told by Josephus were a sham, there seems to be some truth in his
description. We would like to think it correct when Josephus says in
his Ant. 13:6667, 70 that the land Onias IV was going to acquire was
the site of a ruined Egyptian temple. We do want to know when the
foundation stone of Onias IV was laid, and when its construction work
terminated, but we should be content to say for the present that it was
built in the 60s or around the middle of the second century bce. The
exact date of its building would be clarified if someone could excavate
the exact place of Onias IVs temple. Let us wait for the opportunity
for this to happen with great expectation!

Josephus and his Interest in the Temple of Onias IV

According to his Life 13 ff., Josephus, in the year 64 ce, went to Rome
to secure the release of his acquaintances. Let us imagine that he left
Rome, together with his released acquaintances, shortly after achieving
his initial purpose. The fact that he returned to Jerusalem just before
the war against Rome broke out in the early summer of 66 ce may
suggest to us that Josephus was staying in Alexandria and its vicinity
for some purpose which he could not disclose openly. I have already
suggested in an article,8 based on the account in War 2:577582 that
as soon as he was dispatched to Galilee by the wartime cabinet of Jerusalem, Josephus trained some of the Galileans in the Roman military
manner. Judging from his in-depth account of the total strength of
the Roman army in War 3:64106, we could postulate that Josephus
himself had some kind of military training in nearby Nicopolis, when
he was in Alexandria. We would also expect that during his stay in
Alexandria he visited some of the Jewish communities in the Delta,

Hata 1994.

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


including Heliopolis and Bubastisagria (Bubastis-of-the Field or the

Field-of-Bubastis). We could produce indirect evidence for his visiting Heliopolis at least. Josephus had a personal interest in Manetho, a
native of Heliopolis, who dedicated his History of Egypt to Ptolemy I.
It was most probably in Heliopolis that Manetho heard and collected
many scandalous stories about Moses and his exodus, claims which
Josephus later refuted in his Contra Apionem. It was most probably
when Josephus was sojourning in Heliopolis that he learned some legendary stories of Moses such as his leadership in the campaign against
the Ethiopians, or his marriage to Tarbis the Ethiopian kings daughter, an event which Josephus later recounted in Ant. 2:23954. We
could also produce indirect evidence for his visiting Bubastisagria, by
pointing out his special interest in this place. He does refer to the
temple repeatedly in his works. It is well known that Josephus opens
his Jewish War with a reference to Onias IVs land,9 and closes the
final volume of his Jewish War with a reference to the destruction of
this temple.10 Not only in the Jewish War, but also in books 12 and 13
of the Jewish Antiquities, Josephus refers to Onias IV and his temple,
with the inclusion of Onias IVs petition to the king Ptolemy VI and his
queen, and their reply.11 These frequent references could be explained
only by supposing that Josephus himself visited Bubastisagria, saw the
temple of Onias IV and the Jewish community thereabout, and heard
(or collected) a story of the origin of the temple which might be connected with the above mentioned petition and response. If what we
suppose were close to a historical fact, we could then argue that there
were some correct elements in the description of the petition of Onias
IV, or that Josephus cited it because he could testify that there were
some correct descriptions in it.

Flinders Petries Identification and Our Challenge

Out of interest in Josephus description of the temple of Onias, Flinders
Petrie, a British archaeologist, attempted to identify the site of Onias
temple, and published his report in 1906.12 The fourth chapter of this

War 1:33.
War 7:420436.
Ant. 12:387, 13:62ff.
Petrie 1906.


gohei hata

report is entitled The Temple of Onias. It opens with the following

The curious episode of the return of the Jews to Egypt, as a refuge from
the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, and their establishment of a new
centre of worship there at about 154 bc, is well known from the accounts
preserved by Josephus. The site of this new Temple had so far not been
identified, although it was generally recognized as having been about
Tell el Yehudiyeh. The treatment of the statement of Josephus, crediting
him with having mixed together and applied to one settlement circumstances which refer to several Jewish establishments (Naville, Mound of
the Jews, p. 20) is not generally conducive to settling questions. In this
and other cases, when we ascertain the facts, it is seen that we do best to
stick closely to our authorities. As the passages of Josephus can easily be
referred to at length, it will be best here to give a summary of them, and
then to discuss the data which they afford.13

After saying this, Petrie points out that War 7:426436 refers to the
whole region of the Jewish settlements on the east of the Delta as Oneion,
from Onias, and that Ant. 14:127139 implies a larger district. Petrie
then mentions that Onias who fled from Antiochus Epiphanes and
was well received by Ptolemy VI (Philometor) appears to be the Onias,
a Jewish general of Ptolemy VI mentioned in Contra Apionem 2:49.
Ptolemy VI thus gave this Onias land which was 180 stadia from
Memphis, where Onias built a fortress and a temple, not similar
to that at Jerusalem, but such as resembled a tower. He built it of
large stones to the height of 60 cubits. Petrie then refers to the altar
described by Josephus, and quotes his words: The entire temple was
encompassed with a wall of burnt brick, though it had gates of stones.
On the basis of Josephus, Petrie mentions that Lupus, the Prefect of
Egypt in 71 ce, closed the temple, and Paulinus, his successor, after
stripping the place, made it entirely inaccessible. As to the letter of
petition by Onias and the reply from Ptolemy and his queen inserted
in Ant. 13:6568,7071, Petrie mentions that the question of authenticity or forgery of the petition and the reply do not much affect the
indications regarding the place. Petrie goes on to say that Onias is said
to have come to Leontopolis, and to have found a suitable place in a
fortress called Bubastis of the Fields, that is Bubastisagria of Josephus;
it was full of materials of some sort. Petrie repeats what Josephus says
here, i.e., Onias asked leave to purify this place, which belonged to no


Petrie 1906, 1920.

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


Photo 1: Tel el Yehudiyeh

master, and was in ruins, and to build there a temple after the pattern
of that in Jerusalem, and of the same dimensions. Ptolemy VI granted
him the ruined temple site in Leontopolis in the nome of Heliopolis,
named Bubastis of the Fields. So Onias took it and built a temple and
altar, like those of Jerusalem, but smaller and poorer. Petrie claims that
such are the essential points in the accounts of Josephus, both in the
Jewish War and in the Jewish Antiquities.
On the basis of the following three main reasons, Petrie identifies
Tell el Yehudiyeh as the site of Oniass temple14 (See photo Tel el
(1) There is no centre for the worship of Bast between Belbeys and
Memphis, except Tell el Yehudiyeh, where the figure of Hor holding
the shrine of Bast has now been found.
(2) The distance between Tell el Yahudiyeh and the north gate of
Memphis is about 186 stadia, which is close to the 180 stadia Josephus mentions.


Petrie 1906, 20.


gohei hata

(3) There is a mound in Tell el Yehudiyeh which indicates that the

buildings on it could have risen to a height of at least 59 cubits
from the plain below. The 59 cubits are close to the 60 cubits Josephus mentions.15
After settling these three essentials, Petrie was now free to look further
at the details. In our paper, however, we will not go into the details
which Petrie discussed. Could we accept Petries identification of Tell
el Yehudiyeh as the site of Onias temple? Before arguing against his
identification of the temple site, let us first challenge his identification
of Onias. As we have already seen, Petrie not only identifies our Onias
as the Onias who was a Jewish general in the army of Ptolemy VI mentioned in Contra Apionem 2:49, but also regards him as the one who
escaped from the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes.
We would argue against Petries identification of Onias because it is
hard for us to imagine that a mere general of the Ptolemaic army could
consider building a temple for his fellow Jewish people in the Delta.
The person who had such a concern or such an ambition would necessarily be a special person, perhaps the one who once tried to establish
himself in the temple system of Jerusalem, but was expelled from there
when he failed to do so. This person must have had some supporters
among the priests and Levites of Jerusalem. If so, Petries Onias could
not be a viable candidate. Only Onias IV, son of Onias III, could be a
candidate. Onias IV had sufficient reasons for building a temple somewhere in Egypt, which, as Josephus suggests in his Ant. 13: 64, could
be justified and encouraged by the prophecy of Isaiah 19:19.
Then, how about the identification of the temple site by Petrie? We
would argue against his identification on the basis of the following:
Petrie pointed out that a figure of Hor (=Horus) had been found,
but we would say that only one figure of Hor would not have been
enough evidence. Petrie pointed out that the distance between Tell
el Yehudiyeh and the northern gate of Memphis is about 186 stadia,
which, according to him, is close to 180 stadia that Josephus mentions.
We would say that the figure of 180 stadia mentioned by Josephus
is not trustworthy because he is not ordinarily meticulous about the
distances between places.16 Therefore, we should not accept Josephuss


Petrie 1906, 20.

That Josephus is not meticulous about the distance between places in Palestine,
both in the Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities, is discussed by Zeev Safrai. See his article

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


figure seriously. The same should be true of the height of the buildings
Josephus mentions.
What is disappointing for us is that Petrie failed to show us sufficient
objects from the top of the mound to prove that the mound in Tell el
Yehudieh was the site of Onias temple, though he found some stone
vases of the XII Dynasty, and in an earlier visit, the daggers, poetry,
and scarabs of the Hyksos age, the scarabs of the XIIXVII Dynasty or
of the XVIII Dynasty onward, Hyksos graves and later tombs, the coffins of the18th Dynasty, the corn grinders of 26th Dynasty, the foreign
pottery of the 20th Dynasty, the amulets, glass eye beads of the 13th (?)
Dynasty, the Green glazed new year bottles of the 26th Dynasty. Petrie
himself admits that only a few objects were found on the top of the
hill. The objects he found there are a clay jar seal, an earring of glass
beads on bronze wire, and a rams horn, and a few other assorted
items. As to the clay jar, Petrie imagined that it was used ceremonially
for sacrifice, but it is only after many clay jars were found near the
altar for sacrificial animals that we could say that they were used in
this way. How could we agree with Petries imagination when the site
of the altar was not yet found and only one clay jar was found? As to
the divisions of the temple such as porch, holy place, and the most holy
place, Petrie says that there is no trace left, as the whole was located
on one mass of brickwork, which is all that remains.17 Our premise
in our argument against Petrie is that Onias IV was the person who
could claim the high priesthood. This leads us to envisage and emphasize that Onias IV built the temple with the most holy place inside
it. The most holy place would have been built in a most conspicuous
way whose trace should be found rather easily in the excavations. The
temple without the most holy place is, in this case, unthinkable and
unimaginable. If Petrie could not find it on the layers of the mound,
this alone would strongly suggest to us that the temple site of Onias
IV must be found elsewhere than Tell el Yehudiyeh. We would think
of the present Tell Basta, which was once called Bubastos or Bubastis18
or Josephuss Bubastisagria.

The Description of the Land of Israel in Josephus Works, in Lous H. Feldman

and Gohei Hata (eds) 1989.
Petrie 1906, 24.
See above, ftn.7.


gohei hata
The Persons Who Excavated Bubastisagria

The first person who excavated Bubastis was A. Mariette Pasha, a

French archaeologist who later became the first director of Antiquities in the Cairo Museum. He paid attention to the site in the middle
of the nineteenth century, but his excavation is not considered to have
been a success.19 So we will disregard the results of his excavation. The
persons we now turn to are Edouard Naville and Labib Habachi.
Naville excavated Bubastis for two years from 1887 to 1889. According
to the preface of his report, Bubastis,20 when he started his excavation
in 1887, the dealers in antiquities had been working in the site for
years and the fellaheen had been digging for sebakh (decomposed
organic debris to be used as an agricultural fertilizer). The construction of the railway was also under way. Thus, he complained, the areas
of excavation had been greatly reduced and limited.
In this excavation of 1887, Naville, with Griffith, found the great
temple. It was comprised of the entrance hall, festival hall, and hypostyle hall. In the festival hall, a number of inscriptions of Rameses II
and Osorkon II, the remains of the 12th Dynasty, and the cartouches
of Pepi I were found. Pepi Is cartouches suggested to Naville that the
origin of the town went as far back as the 6th Dynasty.
In the excavations of 1888 in which Rev. W. MacGregor and Count
dHulst participated, the remains of the Hyksos were found and the
town turned out to have been once an important settlement for them.
In the excavation of 1889 which Dr. Godard joined from America,
they found that the names of Cheops and Chefren of the 4th Dynasty
inscribed on the blocks in the Entrance Hall. This suggested to Naville
that the origin of the site went back further than the 6th Dynasty.
Cheops is Kufu whom Herodotus looked upon as the builder of the
great pyramid in Giza.
Navilles report, Bubastis (18871889) is composed of many and
varied chapter, but the chapter which attracts our attention is the one
dealing with the Ptolemies and the Romans. However regarding that
period there is nothing more reported than the two inscriptions on
the two blocks of red granite found at the entrance to the Hypostyle
Hall, and a headless torso wearing a toga with an ornamental fringe


Naville 1891, 2.
Naville 1891.

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


exactly similar to that of the Roman statue in the museum of Ghizeh.21

There is no report on any finds relating to our concern and purpose.
Actually, there is no reference at all to the temple of Onias (IV) in
Navilles report on Bubastis.
In Tell Basta, L. Habachi makes a detailed report on the remains of
the temple of Pepi I which was dedicated to the goddess Bastet, and he
also reports on his excavation in a different area of the site of the great
temple which Naville found.22 Like the report of Naville, this account
is extremely important to those interested in the history of Egypt,
but to those who are trying to locate the temple site of Onias IV it is
disappointing. Habachi did not show any interest at all in the temple
of Onias IV. However, there is one map of Tell Basta of his time,
which would be of service to us.

Our Surveys
We made the first preliminary survey on 2 and 3 September in 2005 in
an attempt to locate the site of Onias IVs temple.23 We visited the four
sites, that is, Leontopolis (N:30 41.052; E:21 21.043) in Tell Muqdam, Bubastis or Tell Basta (N:30 34.430, E:31 30.765) in Al Zagazig,
Tell el Yehudiyeh (N:30 17.635, E:31 19.971), and Tell Yahood
(N: 30 22.893, E:31 31.750) in Ghita, and then spent three days in
the research room of the Cairo Museum to check the finds from the
sites we visited.
The site of Tell Muqdam had been already excavated by the University of California and they published their reports on the web.24 We
had already checked and discussed the results of their excavations in
Tokyo before we visited the site. Although the name Leontopolis would


Naville 1891, 59.

Habachi 1957.
Dr. Akio Moriya, Professor of the Old Testament of Tokyo Christian Womens
College and I conducted the surveys. Dr. Kawatoko of the Near Eastern Cultural Center,
who had been digging in Egypt for the past thirty years and his team were with us.
In our second survey, Dr. Yoshiyuki Sudo, Professor of Nagoya University joined us.
Mr. Tarek Ahamed Harsh, director of the Canal Archaeological Sone Office in Tell-el
Kibir and Mr. Hassam Mohammed Saleman, director of The Delta Archaeological
Center were also with us. I have published the report of our two surveys (in Japanese)
on Tell Basta: The Promised Land for Archaeoilogical Digging in Tama Art University
Academic Bulletin, No.21 (2006) 101115.
See, for example, the Tell El-Muqdam Project in ARF Newsletter 1995 v22.


gohei hata

suggest some possible relation with the report of Josephus since Onias
IV says in his letter of petition that . . . when I came with the Jews to
Leontopolis in the nome of Heliopolis and to other places where our
nation is settled (Ant. 13.65) or since Ptolemy VI and his queen say
in their reply to Onias IV that We have read your petition asking that
it be permitted you to cleanse the ruined temple in Leontopolis in the
nome of Heliopolis, called Bubastis of the Fields . . . . (Ant. 13:70), the
actual site of Leontopolis we visited would not indicate at all that there
is any relationship with the temple site because there was no trace of
the ruined Egyptian temple with fallen pillars and stones.
Tell Yehudiyeh was a site which we thought we must thoroughly
inspect because as we have already mentioned, Petrie identified it as
the site of Oniass temple. There, we could easily ascend the wall of the
Hyksos that Petrie mentions and the small mound on which, according to Petrie, the temple of Onias was supposed to have been built. The
impression we had when we stood on top of the mound was that it
was too small for the site of the temple of Onias which we could duly
suppose might have grown larger in the passage of time. Part of the socalled Hyksos wall gives us an impression that the original wall might
have surrounded a large camp. If so, why did not Josephus who we
suppose visited the temple site of Onias mention this camp? According to his Contra Apionem, Josephus was evidently interested in the
invasion of Hyksos in the land of Egypt and their dynasty because of
Manethos reference to the race. Had all the trace of the camp already
been removed when he visited there?
Tell Yahood in Ghita is a place that has not yet been excavated, and
thus the Egyptian director of the Antiquities Agency strongly recommended that it be excavated. Judging from some pieces of broken clay
jars which appeared on the surface of the mound, they belong to the
Hellenistic and Roman periods, but this place seemed to have nothing
to do with the site of Onias IVs temple because no part of this site fits
with the account of Josephus.
Bubastis, or the present Tell Basta, is located in the south-east of Al
Zagazig. Bubastis was in the 18th nomos of the Lower Egypt, and the
capital city of the 22nd and 23rd dynasties. It was also a central place
for the worship of goddess Bastet, from which Bubastis or Bubastos
is derived. The present Tell Basta is surrounded by a fenced wall perhaps partly because the Egyptians authorities want to keep it safe for
the tourists who come and see the place, and partly because there are
military barracks inside. As soon as we entered the gate, the fallen
pillars and stonessome of which had hieroglyphic inscriptions

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


Photo 2: Tel Basta

came into our sight to the south (See photo Tel Basta). They are part
of the Great Temple which Naville excavated and part of the temple
built by Teti and Pepi I. Everyone who is familiar with the accounts
of Josephus will soon recall them, especially the accounts of the ruined
temple site full of materials of some kind. The place where the fallen
pillars and stones were scattered around is rectangular and its total
length seems to exceed 600 meters. In the southern part of this place,
part of a canal was found when the army was digging the land by a
bulldozer. This canal seems to be one of the two canals which Herodotus mentions,25 and must be the one to be used for boats carrying the
stones from quarries. In the eastern part of these sites which are close
to the military barracks are several small tells that were not excavated
by Naville and Habachi. One or several of these sites should be recommended for future excavations.
We made another preparatory investigation again on 31 August
and 1 September, 2006. In the Petrie Museum in London, we read the
reports, letters, and notes Petrie left for us, and checked some of the
finds he brought from Tell el Yehudiyeh for the museum display. As a
result of our second investigations, we are more confident that Petries

Herodotus, History, II.60.


gohei hata

identification is wrong, and after revisiting the four sites and carefully
examining them, we became thoroughly confident that we should look
at some areas in Tell Basta as a site of Onias IVs temple.

Some Concluding Remarks

We would like to emphasize that the students of Judaism in the
Hellenistic and Roman periods should pay much more attention to
the exact site of Onias IVs temple and that we should locate its site
and excavate the site in the near future. If excavations in the future are
successful, they will at least prompt the considerations and questions:
(1) Judaism in the Hellenistic and Roman periods had two temples
against its basic ideology of One God, and One Temple in Judaism;
(2) What was the relationship between the Onias IVs temple and the
one in Jerusalem? Were they hostile to each other to the very end
when both temples were destroyed in the second half of the first
century ce?
(3) What was the attitude of the Jewish community in Bubastis toward
their fellow Jews in Jerusalem at the time of the war against the
(4) How was the relationship between the Jewish community in Bubastis and the one in Alexandria? Were they hostile to each other from
the beginning to the end?
(5) How was the relationship between the Jewish community in Bubastis and other Jewish communities in the Delta? What sort of daily
traffic existed between them?
(6) How was the relationship between the Jewish community in
Bubastis and other Egyptian communities, especially Heliopolis?
(7) What sorts of biblical books did they use? Did they produce any
Greek translations of any of the biblical books for their own use
or in an attempt to discredit the Greek translations produced by
the Alexandrian Jewish community?
Whatever results the excavations may reveal, we emphasize that someone interested in Jewish history should propose that this site be excavated. The present Tell Basta, indeed, seems to be a site of promise,
with the full expectation of archaeological finds, but no milk and

where is the temple site of onias iv in egypt?


Bohak Gideon, 1996, Joseph and Aseneth and the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis. Atlanta,
Georgia: Scholars Press.
Lous H. Feldman and Gohei Hata eds, Josephus, the Bible, and History 1989 (Detroit:
Wayne State University Press).
Feldman, Louis H. 1984. The Temple at Leontopolis. Pages 45963 in, Josephus and
Modern Scholarship (19371980). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Habachi, Labib, 1957. Tell Basta. SASAE no. 22. Cairo: Institut franais darchologie
Hata, Gohei, 1994. Imagining Some Dark Periods in Josephus Life. Pages 30928
in Josephus & the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton
Smith. Edited by Fausto Parente & Joseph Sievers. Leiden: Brill.
Naville, Edouard, 1891. Bubasits (18871889). London: Messrs. Kegan Paul, Trench,
Trubner & Co.
Petrie, W. M. Flinders, 1906. Hyksos and Israelite Cities. London: Office of School of
Archaeology, University College London.


Jan Willem van Henten

I. Introduction
Herod the Great has been remembered as a tyrant for almost twenty
centuries and even scholars have characterized him as such.1 For
Christians, Herods image as a tyrant has been fuelled by the New
Testament story about the three wise men who came to honor Jesus
(Matthew 2:118). Matthew concludes this passage with a brief report
about Herods brutal decision to kill all children in and around
Bethlehem of two years or under (Matt. 2:1618). Herods reputation
as a bloody murderer, however, is not only based on the New Testament. Photius paraphrasing of Josephus Antiquities also hints at
murders by the king, which are not mentioned by Matthew:
This Herod is the son of Antipater the Idumaean and his Arab wife; her
name was Cypros. During his reign Christ our God was born from the
womb of the Virgin for the salvation of our species. Despite his fury
against him, Herod failed to get the Master, but he made himself the
assassin of numerous little children. It is stated that he exceeded every
other tyrant in cruelty and bloodthirstiness. (Photius, codex 238).2

This passage builds on Matthews story of Herod murdering the little

children in Bethlehem. It emphasizes Herods murderous character

See the brief discussion of Herods reception in Schalit 2001, 6469. Also Sandmel
1967, and, consulted on June 19, 2006. This contribution was written before Kasher and Witztum 2007
appeared, which offers a very different perspective on Herod as a tyrant. I warmly
thank Rogier Oranje for many useful references and Emma England for correcting
my English.
Henry 1967, 14243. All translations of ancient passages are my own unless stated
otherwise. Translations from book 1 of Josephus Jewish War are from Antony Forte
and Joseph Sievers forthcoming translation for the Brill Josephus project (Chapman,
Forte, Mason, and Sievers, forthcoming). I warmly thank them for allowing me to use
their translation.


jan willem van henten

and considers him the worst tyrant ever.3 A close reading of Photius
quote shows that his characterization of Herod as a tyrant is inspired
by particular phrases in Josephus. This calls for a search into Josephus
passages about Herod as a tyrant.
Josephus is, of course, our primary source for Herod the Great, but
it is important to note that he tells the Herod story twice. As a matter
of fact, the presentations of Herod as a tyrant in The Jewish War and
The Antiquities differ greatly, requiring a separate discussion of both
works. Therefore, I intend to discuss in this contribution all of Josephus passages that explicitly suggest that Herod was a tyrant.4 I will
first analyze the relevant passages in the War and then discuss the
Antiquities, in order to compare the Herod images related to tyranny
in both works. Before this I will offer a brief survey of negative stereotypes of tyranny in antiquity.

II. Stereotypes of tyrants

Significantly, stereotypes about wicked tyrants have remained quite
fixed over the centuries. The famous debate about the ideal form of
government between Otanes, Megabyzus and Darius in Herodotus
Histories 3.803 describes tyranny as the negative outcome of monarchy. Otanes argues for the introduction of democratic government and
disqualifies monarchic rule with clichs of tyranny: How can one fit
monarchy into any sound system of ethics, when it allows a man to do
whatever he likes without any responsibility or control? (Hist. 3.80;
trans. de Slincourt and Burn). Many of Otanes points in his speech
return as commonplace in later passages that are critical about tyrants.
He notes that abuse of power is inherent to ruling alone; this leads to
the danger that monarchs rule as autocrats who refuse to be accountable. A king also runs the risk that two vices corrupt his rule: envy
() and arrogance ().5 A monarch can become envious
of subjects who excel, but pleased by wicked persons. He is suscep-

The famous quote from Augustus in Macrobius (Sat. 2.4.11) It is better to be Herods
swine than his son is dependent on Mat. 2:118.
Landau 2006 offers a detailed discussion of the Herod images in War and
Herodotus, Hist. 3.80, emphasizes that these two vices are the basis of all wicked
deeds of kings.

constructing herod as a tyrant


tible to slander, is inconsistent, aims for praise but not too much; he
abolishes ancestral customs, violates women, and executes persons
without a trial. Most of these aspects of the image of bad tyrants are
also emphasized by other authors from the sixth and fifth centuries
bce. They sometimes articulate their examples of tyrannical actions differently and add still other clichs: irresponsibility, dishonesty during
public appearances, arbitrary behavior, cruelty as well as the violation
of promises.6
The sum of tyrannical characteristics put forward in Classical Greek
literary sources can be presented in a matrix form (figure 1, below).
In this way the list can function as a checklist for individual passages
about rulers depicted as tyrants, as is demonstrated by a number of
famous tyrants and the key passages that describe their actions. Of
course, the material of this matrix is limited in several ways, it concerns only five tyrants and one key passage per tyrant. I deliberately
included tyrants from the Classical era as well as the first century ce
in order to see how much continuity can be observed in the list of
characteristics. The horizontal rows concern the tyrannical characteristics and note whether a specific passage includes this characteristic or
not. The columns concern the key passages about five selected rulers
who were considered tyrants.
Table 1: Matrix of Tyrannical Characteristics

misuse of power
injustice in public
legal injustice
ending ancestral



L. Tarquinius Nero
3.3947, 460, 1.4660
1208, 142


Berve 1967, 190206. See also Moss 1969, 14145.




jan willem van henten

Table 1 (cont.)
8. improper
behavior to
9. violence against
opponents or
10. cruelty
11. robbery
12. envy of excellent
13. susceptibility to
14. fear of friends
15. cowardice
16. madness
17. murder of


L. Tarquinius Nero
3.3947, 460, 1.4660
1208, 142










Of course, there is considerable subjectivity in this matrix, not only

because the list of tyrants is far from complete, but also because
various Greek phrases have to be summarized in a few key words in
English. I hope, nevertheless, that the matrix shows that there is considerable continuity between passages from the fifth century bce. until
the beginning of the second century ce, so that it can be safely used
as a starting point for a discussion of Herods tyrannical images in
Flavius Josephus.7

III. Herod as a tyrant in The Jewish War

Surprisingly, a close reading of the Jewish War that specifically looks
for depictions of Herod as a tyrant is largely unsuccessful. Explicit
vocabulary connected with the semantic field of and related
For images of tyrants in the Hellenistic and Roman periods see Berve 1967, 476509
and the Index sv Tyrannenpersnlichkeit, vol. 2, 77172; also van Henten 2000.

constructing herod as a tyrant


words is absent, with one or two exceptions (below). Clusters of motifs

that are part of the stereotype of wicked tyrants are also missing. Of
course, modern readers may interpret several deeds of Herod as the
typical behavior of a tyrant, and the War reports many instances of
strong criticism of Herod by his opponents. Early on in his career, for
example, after his appointment as governor of Galilee by his father,
Herod decided to attack Ezekias and his fellow brigands, who were
active near the Syrian border (War 1.204; cf. Ant. 14.159). Herod killed
these men, but did not have permission to do so without a trial, as his
opponents later hold against him. Hyrcanus II even accused Herod
of manslaughter, but acquitted him again, acting on Sextus Caesars
advice (War 1.210215; Ant. 15.165169). Herod ordered the killing
of persons without trial or permission by the Sanhedrin several times,8
but are there standards for assessing such executions? They were no
doubt common practice for ancient rulers, just as much as ordering
the torture of people suspected of committing criminal acts or of associating with suspected criminals.
What matters for my discussion is that there are hardly any passages
in the War that depict Herod by using stereotypical images of wicked
tyrants like Antiochus IV or Nero, whose images become blacker and
blacker in early Jewish or Christian literature up to becoming paragons of Satan. In The Jewish War Josephus offers just a few scattered
hints that might suggest that Herod behaved like a tyrant, but these
concern a single event or represent the perspective of an (unfriendly)
character in the narrative. War 1.492497 (cf. Ant. 15.235254), for
example, describes Herods reaction to his suspicions that his son,
Alexander, was plotting against him. Alexander was later executed on
Herods command, together with his brother Aristobulus (War 1.551;
Ant. 16.394). Herods suspicions frightened him terribly and made him
send out spies day and night. Josephus reports that the palace was filled
with terrible lawlessness ( ) during that time
(War 1.493) and that Herod became so bitter (
) that he did not look gently even on those who were not under
accusation, and was extremely harsh () with his friends,
too. (1.494). Herods execution of his wife Mariamme (below), as well
as his two sons Alexander and Aristobulus, is taken up in a later passage
concerning the testimony of female slaves who were put to torture

See, for example, War 1.252, Ant. 14.335336; War 1.433, 437 (Hyrcanus and his
grandson Jonathan-Aristobulus; cf. Ant. 15.164182 and 15.5056).


jan willem van henten

and testified against Antipater, another son of Herod. Antipater was

scheming wickedly against his father. The women testified that Antipater and Herods brother Pheroras said to each other that after
Alexander and Aristobulus, Herod would go after them and their
wives. For after (what he did to) Mariamme and her offspring, he
would spare no one. It would be better, then, to flee as far away as
possible from the beast ( ). (War
1.586; cf. Ant. 17.6667).9
In the Herod narrative of The Jewish War itself there is no elaborate
passage in which Josephus explicitly presents Herod as a tyrant. The
situation in The Antiquities is different: even the War sections paralleling the Antiquities passages which explicitly associate Herod with
tyranny lack motifs and vocabulary referring to tyranny (see the next
In fact, there is just one passage in The Jewish War that unambiguously depicts Herod as a tyrant. At first glance, this passage does not
seem to present Josephus own view; it transmits the opinion of opponents of Herod and Archelaus after Herods death (War 2.8492). The
context of this flashback is the visit of Herods competing sons, Archelaus and Antipas, to Rome to acquire the throne of Judea from the
emperor. While they were awaiting Augustus decision about Herods
succession, Jewish petitioners went to the emperor and pleaded for
Archelaus deposition. They preferred Roman suzerainty to a Herodian
ruler as long as they were able to live in accordance with Jewish practices.10 Strikingly, their main argument, as presented by Josephus, does
not concern Archelaus, since it is a summary of Herods wicked deeds
described in highly dramatic tones. Their accusation against Herod lists
countless murders, torture of the survivors, destruction of the cities of
the Jews, benefactions to non-Jews at the expense of the Jews (he had
shed Jewish blood to gratify foreign people), poverty and unlawful-

The women also reported the following statement by Antipater to Pheroras:
. . . It is impossible, however, to escape from such a bloodthirsty beast (
), in whose eyes we do not even have the right to show our affection for anyone . . . (War 1.589). Cf. also the reference to Herods unrelenting anger
towards his sons Alexander and Aristobulus, provoked by Eurycles (
, War 1.526; cf. Ant. 16.363 about Herods anger during the accusation of the two: he showed the strongest signs of anger and savageness (
War 2.8493; Ant. 17.304314.

constructing herod as a tyrant


ness (War 2.8486).11 The accusations are introduced and concluded

with characterizations of the former king as a tyrant, actually as the
worst tyrant ever. The Jewish War 2.84 renders the following statement
of the petitioners for the emperor: declaring that it was not to a king
that they had submitted but to the most savage tyrant that had ever
lived ( ,).12
After these accusations of Herod, Archelaus is called the son of that
cruel tyrant ( , 2.88). This accusation
only makes sense if the underlying reasoning of the petitioners was
that Archelaus was as bad as his father.13
Four brief observations can be made in connection with this passage.
First, the accusations are put forward during a petition to the emperor
for the dissolution of Herodian rule, so they convey the opinion of
opponents against Herod. Second, if we compare the accusations with
Herods deeds as depicted in the War, they turn out to be a gross exaggeration.14 Third, Josephus reports that Nicolaus of Damascus successfully countered the accusations by reproaching the Jewish people for
being hard to govern and disobedient by nature (
, 2.92).15 Nicolaus rebuttal is clearly
also a gross overstatement. More significantly, however, Josephus disposes of Nicolaus counter argument in a few lines, while he spotlights
the anti-Herodian accusations in this flashback. This implies, in my
view, that Josephus the narrator sides with Herods opponents here,
and for once depicts Herod as a tyrant in The Jewish War. Fourth, it is
the vocabulary about Herod as a tyrant in this Josephean passage that
appears to be echoed in Photius statement about Herod as a tyrant.16

Herods transgressions of the ancestral Jewish laws are frequently taken up in the
Antiquities report of the kings rule, see below section IV. A detailed commentary on
War 2.8492 will be given in Chapman, Forte, Mason and Sievers (forthcoming).
Savagery is a common characteristic of wicked tyrants, see figure 1. See also
2 Macc. 7:4; 4 Macc. 9:15, 30; 12:13.
Cf. the reference to Archelaus killing of 3,000 citizens in War 2.89; cf. Ant.
Nicolaus of Damascus easy rebuttal of the accusations (War 2.92, below) is
already a clue to the petitioners overstatement of Herods negative deeds.
It is significant that Josephus does not specify who the petitioners are in War
2.8492, he consistently uses an unspecified plural (they), until he reports Nicolaus
rebuttal, who refers to the people ( . . .).
Cf. Josephus, War 2.84 . . . declaring that it was not to a king that they had submitted
but to the most savage tyrant that had ever lived. (. . .
) with Photius, c. 238, It is stated that he exceeded


jan willem van henten

The parallel passage of The Jewish War 2.8492, Ant. 17.304314,

is in some respects more specific than its forerunner, but its content
and message about Herod are not very different from the picture in
the War. The Antiquities also refers to tyranny at the beginning of the
petitioners accusation:
When the delegates of the Jews, who were eagerly looking forward
to arguing for the dissolution of the kingdom, were permitted to speak,
they turned to accuse Herod of lawless acts. They declared him a king
only in name17 and claimed that he had agreed to take upon himself the ruinous task, like in every tyranny (
), of bringing about the destruction of the Jews. He had not
left off from inventing all kinds of new measures that matched his character. (17.304).
The accusation is less hysterical than in the War on the subject of
tyranny itself, where Herod is called the worst tyrant ever, but Herods
apparent determination to ruin the Jews remains very serious. In fact,
the suggestion that Herods tyrannical deeds matched his character
implies that Herod was a tyrant by nature, which is a devastating criticism of a ruler. The Antiquities passage combines this with the accusation that Herod continuously came up with innovations (Ant. 17.304).
This ties in with repeated accusations by the narrator that Herod initiated new practices that brought along severe transgressions of the
ancestral Jewish laws, such as the introduction of trophies in Jerusalem
(Ant. 17.272290) and the erection of the golden eagle on top of the
sanctuary (Ant. 17.148164, below).18
One other detail in Ant. 17.304314 is additional to the list of Herods
wicked deeds in the War version of the petition, and again it broadens
the portrayal of Herod as a tyrant. The petitioners say that they preferred to remain silent about their ruined virgins and dishonored
women, wicked deeds accomplished out of drunkenness and inhuman
behavior (17.309). This point hints at a connection between tyranny
and Herod regarding his wives named Mariamme. The conclusion of
this specific accusation again associates Herod with tyrants: Such outrage Herod had inflicted upon them; a wild animal () could not
have accomplished as much after it had come by the power to rule

every other tyrant in cruelty and bloodthirstiness. (

Cf. Ant. 15.281; 16.4.
See section IV with n. 33.

constructing herod as a tyrant


over humans. (17.309). This brief discussion of Ant. 17.304314 as

the parallel passage of War 2.8492 leads us to the depiction of Herod
as a tyrant in The Jewish Antiquities.

IV. The Golden Eagle Episode

By far the most elaborate passage that explicitly describes Herod as a
tyrant in The Jewish Antiquities concerns the report about the demolition of Herods golden eagle at the end of his rule (Ant. 17.148164; cf.
War 1.64855; 2.57). Some of the Jerusalem Jews must have considered the eagle on top of the sanctuary, no matter what it symbolized,
as a horrendous violation of Gods second commandment. Several
youngsters eagerly sacrificed their lives for the destruction of this
symbol.19 Josephus introductory comments in the golden eagle report
suggest that Herod had turned into a cruel tyrant because of his incurable illness. Josephus characterizes Herod at the beginning, as well as
at the end, of the eagle section with a cluster of phrases that point to
well-known stereotypes of wicked tyrants (above). Herods behavior is
characterized by rage, cruelty, bitterness and the belief that the people
held him in contempt, a motif that is far from standard in stereotypical
passages about tyrants:
Because he had given up hope of recoveringfor he was around his
seventieth year, he became enraged and handled everything with pure
anger and bitterness. The reason was his conviction that he was despised
and that the (Jewish) people took pleasure in his misfortune, especially
because some of the more highly respected persons among the people
rebelled against him for the following reason. (Ant. 17.148)

The emphasis on Herod as a tyrant returns at the end of the report

with references to Herods rage and cruelty (17.164):
Because of his cruelty and their fear that in his outrage he would even
exact vengeance on them, those present [i.e. those present at the assembly
to discuss the punishment of the rebels] said that these things had been
done without their approval, but also that it seemed to them that they
[the rebels] should not go unpunished. So he acted to these others rather
indulgently. But he relieved Mathias from his office as high priest on
the ground that he had been partly responsible for these things, and
appointed, his wifes brother Joazar as high priest.


Detailed discussion of this episode can be found in van Henten 2006.


jan willem van henten

Because this brief concluding paragraph in Ant. 17.164 refers once

again to Herods tyrannical character, it forms an inclusio with the
beginning of the eagle narrative in 17.148, and, therefore, emphasizes
Herods tyrannical behavior during this episode. During the assembly,
after the eagles demolition, the Jewish officials clearly disconnect
themselves from the perpetrators out of fear of being executed as well.20
They got away with this, but Herod replaced the high priest Mathias
because he was suspected of being a member of the rebellious group.
The relevant vocabulary of the introduction and conclusion of the
golden eagle passage can be listed as follows:
Rage: 148 (); 164 ()21
Anger: 148 ()
Bitterness: 148 ()22
The belief he was held in contempt by the people: 148 (
Cruelty: 164 ()23

The accumulation of all these traits constructs a coherent image of

Herod as a tyrant during the golden eagle episode. This image matches
ancient stereotypes of wicked tyrants. It is telling that there are no
longer restrictions to the use of these character traits at this stage of
Herods career. Moments of severe anger, for example, occur earlier
in the Herod narratives in the War as well as the Antiquities,24 but
both works basically show that the king was capable of controlling

Josephus does not identify the members of the assembly, but context and content
imply that the group indicated by in 17.164 probably refers to the Jewish officials
mentioned in 17.160.
Similar vocabulary characterizes Alexandra (Ant. 15.44), rebels (17.216), Athronges
and his group (17.282), Tiberius (18.226227), Gaius (19.27), and Sentius Saturninus
tirade against tyrants (19.175).
Herods bitterness is referred to a few times elsewhere, for example in connection with
Herods taxes (War 1.494; 2.87; Ant. 16.235; cf. 17.205).
A few other rulers are described in Josephus works with a similar vocabulary:
War 1.97 about Alexander Jannaeus bitterness and cruelty in connection with his crucifixion of 800 Jews; Ant. 18.282 about Gaius anger and bitterness (
); also Ant. 19.130.
War 1.212, 214, 252, 320, 484, 507, 526, 565, 571, 65455; Ant. 14.180, 436; 15.83,
211, 214, 229; 16.90, 199200, 262, 366; 17. 50, 69, 83, 191.

constructing herod as a tyrant


and concealing his anger during most of his life (e.g. War 1.320, 484;
Ant. 17.50, 83).25
Two motifs in the Antiquities version of the eagle story that contribute
to Herods depiction as a tyrant stand out in comparison to the
cluster of stereotypical characteristics of tyrants discussed above. One
concerns the kings suspicion that the people held him in contempt
(Ant. 17.148), a characteristic which is absent from the above list. Josephus mentions other cases of rulers held in contempt, but they are
usually held in contempt by individuals or small groups.26 There is one
similar case concerning Herod. One of the Galilean brigands who had
their base in caves dramatically killed himself, his seven sons and his
wife, although Herod had promised him full immunity. Before hurling
himself down he bitterly reproached Herod for his humble descent or
meaness of spirit (, War 1.311313; Ant. 14.429430).
The eagle episode is remarkable exactly because Herod fears, at
least in the Antiquities version, that the entire Jewish people held
him in contempt. This reminds one of martyrdom stories and their
pitch-black portraits of the ruler as oppressor. In the martyrdom of
the Maccabean mother and her seven sons Antiochus IV suspects that
he is being held in contempt by the mother and her only remaining
son when he tries to persuade this son to give in to the Greek way of
life by agreeing to eat pork (2 Macc. 7:2431; cf. 4 Macc. 12:119).27
This characteristic also features in 2 Macc. 7 in the distinction between
languages: Greek for non-Jews and the ancestral language for the
Jews, probably Hebrew.28 The martyrs speak among themselves in
their ancestral language and even address the king in this language
(2 Macc. 7:8). This deliberate miscommunication emphasizes the
ethnic-cultural clash between the wicked Greek king Antiochus and
the Jewish martyrs. Antiochus temptation of the youngest martyr
fails, and the boy announces the kings punishment in harsh and contemptuous terms (2 Macc. 7:31; cf. 4 Macc. 12:1114). 4 Maccabees

Cf. Ant. 15.229: And he was unable to control himself in his speaking and too
angry for a judgment.
See Syllaeus contempt for Herod (War 1.633) or Saul being held in contempt
by wicked persons (Ant. 6.67). Cf. also Daniels contempt for Darius commandments
(Ant. 10.255), Ahasverus response to Vashtis refusal (11.193194), Sabinus contempt
for Gaius (Ant. 19.261) and the contempt for human and divine matters because of
the corruption of power in Ant. 6.262268.
Van Henten 1997, 105108.
Van Henten 1999.


jan willem van henten

elaborates the martyrs contempt for Antiochus, who is portrayed as a

wicked tyrant.29 Although the collective contempt for Herod is noted
in passing in Ant. 17.148, the motif again associates the king with
wicked tyrants.
The second motif more explicitly matches one of the motifs in the
list (abolition of ancestral customs), it becomes clearer if the context is
taken into account. Josephus consistently associates the sages and the
youngsters in the eagle narrative of the Antiquities with the ancestral
Jewish customs. He introduces the two sages who instigate the destruction of the eagle as interpreters of the ancestral laws (
, Ant. 17.149).30 This presentation constructs a contrast
between Herod, who is already characterized as a tyrant in 17.148,
and the two sages, who are depicted as highly respected and learned
members of the people. This distinction is underpinned by a cluster
of phrases that induce readers to interpret Herod and the sages as diametrically opposed. The sages and/or their followers strive for virtue
(, Ant. 17.149, 152, 158) and piety (, 17.150; cf. 159),
Herod obviously not. The sages educate the young to live a virtuous life
(17.149; cf. 2 Macc. 6:2428) and to remain faithful to the Jewish laws.
They should consider their cause as being entrusted to them by God
( , 158). Herods behavior
results in bold transgressions of the Jewish laws: . . . For it certainly
was because of his boldness () to construct these things against
the laws prohibition . . . (17.150).31 If we combine these statements,
Herod and the group of sages and youths appear to be contrasted with
each other by their attitude towards the Jewish ancestral laws. One of
the youths statements to Herod during the interrogation confirms this
contrast: It is not at all surprising if we consider the preservation of
the laws, which Moses left behind in writing . . . to be more important
than your decrees. (Ant. 17.159).32 Faithfulness to the ancestral laws

Van Henten 1997, 25867.

Rengstorf 19731983, 2.122: expounder, interpreter, the noun occurs three
times in Josephus, only in the Antiquities and always referring to the two sages (17.147,
214, 216). The noun occurs more frequently and can indicate dream interpretation (Ant. 2.69, 75, 77, 93) or the explanation of laws (Ant. 11.192).
Josephus report about Herods trophies erected during his festival in Jerusalem
(Ant. 15.268290), in honor of Augustus, also emphasizes that Herods innovations
implied the abolition of Jewish laws (15.268, 27475, 276, 277). The theatre as the
location of the murder attempt against Herod (15.284) hints, perhaps, at Herod being
a tyrant, because murdering a wicked ruler in a crowded theatre is a topos in ancient
Greek literature. See van Henten 2008, 153. Also Ant. 19.14118.
In the parallel narrative in The Jewish War the youths explicitly refer to
: First [the king] asked whether they had dared to cut down the golden eagle.

constructing herod as a tyrant


( ) is highlighted in the Antiquities version of the story

(17.149, 150, 151, 152, 159.33 The opposition of Jewish ancestral laws,
identical with the laws of Moses, and Herods decrees () in
17.159 even suggests that Herod treated his subjects as a foreign ruler.34
This contrast echoes the stories in Daniel 3 and 6 as well as the martyr
stories in 2 and 4 Maccabees (cf. 2 Macc. 7:30), which contrast the
foreign rulers laws with Gods laws or authority.35
The golden eagle episode in the Antiquities narrative suggests on
the surface level that a clash occurred between highly respected representatives of the Jewish people and their brutal foreign tyrant. Herod
clearly behaves as a tyrant at the end of his life, after he had become
seriously ill. How do the other explicit passages in the Antiquities that
associate Herod with tyranny relate to Herods full-blown characterization as a tyrant in the golden eagle section? Before taking up this
question, however, the eagle passage in The Jewish War should be
briefly addressed.
Josephus depiction of Herod in the War passage about the eagle
differs considerably from the picture in the Antiquities. The context of
the eagle incident and the chain of events just before and after it, up
to Herods death, is basically the same in both works (War 1.641647,
656673; Ant. 17.134147, 164199). Both reports emphasize at
the beginning that Herod had become very ill (War 1.647, 649;
Ant. 17.148). Yet, where the Antiquities report emphasizes that Herod
had become a tyrant at this stage of his life, the War passage continues
with the notice that there was an uprising of the people (
, 1.648; cf. Ant. 17.148
). Next, both passages tell us about Judas and Matthias
instigating the young men to demolish the eagle, but the Jewish War
does not introduce them as interpreters of the Jewish laws, as does the
Antiquities.36 The Jewish War consistently uses in its references to Judas and Matthias (1.648, 650, 655, 656; also Ant. 17.152,
155).37 Josephus uses mostly when referring to important

They admitted to it. When (he asked) who it was who ordered this, they responded
that their ancestral law (did). (War 1.653).
It is found just once in the parallel narrative War 1.653.
Cf. War 2.86.
Van Henten 1997, 1014.
The noun is absent in the War. The verb is used just once in
the War version of the eagle episode (1.649, in connection with both sages). See also
War 2.113 and Ant. 17.347 and 18.81.
Cf. War 2.10, 118, 433, 445.


jan willem van henten

sages or heads of religious and/or political schools. What is important

for my discussion is that he does not highlight the importance of the
Jewish laws in the War passage about the eagle.38 The shorter version
of the War emphasizes something else, namely that the fact that Herod
was going to die was a major factor in the decision to rebel. The War
mentions a rumor that the king had died (1.651). Serious illness of a
ruler could easily trigger rebellious acts, as is apparent from a passage
in Suetonius about Augustus final day. It suggests that Augustus took
his death lightly, but frequently inquired whether the rumors of his illness were causing popular disturbances.39 In short, the description in
the War of Herods behavior during his interrogation of the youth and
the assembly afterwards hardly suggests that Herod was a tyrant. Herod
reacts as an experienced and clever ruler, and temporarily overcomes
his illness, because of his huge anger about the youths statements:
Because of his excessive anger ( ) about these responses
he got the better of his illness and started an assembly. He denounced the
men at great length as sacrilegious because, by using the law as a pretext,
they were attempting something more ambitious, and he insisted that
they be punished for sacrilege. (1.654).

Thus, instead of the picture of Herod painted in the Antiquities, where

the king is presented as a foreign tyrant who abolished Jewish ancestral practices, Herod accuses the rebels of sacrilege in the War. During
the assembly the people even invite him to execute the instigators as
well as those who carried out the plan (1.654). Therefore, the portrayal
of Herod as a tyrant in the golden eagle narrative is exclusive to the
report in the Antiquities.40
Josephus comments in the Antiquities report of the kings death
(17.190192) are consistent with his portrayal of the king during the
last period of Herods rule. Josephus concluding remarks include
another indication of Herods tyrannical character with the following

Michel and Bauernfeind 19621969, vol. 1, 425. Rengstorf 19731983, vol. 4,
2829, s.v. . Sometimes the word is pejorative in Josephus, meaning sophist,
charlatan, demagogue, e.g. in Apion 2.236.
Suetonius, Aug. 99.
The sequel in the Antiquities narrative about the kings very last days also
presents him as a wicked tyrant, as is apparent from the very cruel plan for a
mass execution in the Jericho hippodrome to ensure extensive mourning after his
death (Ant. 173181; cf. War 1.659660). Cf. Josephus introduction of the plan in
Ant. 17.173 A black gall was taking hold of him, which made him savage towards
everybody . . . ( ).

constructing herod as a tyrant


word play: He was a cruel man to everybody alike (

), being smaller than his anger and bigger than his justice
( ), though he was gifted
with a good fortune, which was better than anybody elses (17.191).
The passage highlights once more Herods cruelty, excessive anger and

V. Brief hints at Herods tyrannical behavior in the Antiquities

The consistent portrayal of Herod as a wicked tyrant in the Antiquities report about the kings final period might suggest, at first glance,
that Herod was only a tyrant in the last phase of his life. It is true that
Josephus puts Herods explicit tyrannical image to the forefront only
in the last sections of the Herod narrative in the Antiquities. Nevertheless, there are other Antiquities passages that associate Herod, at
least briefly, with tyranny from the earliest stage of his career onwards.
However, most of these passages do not explicitly present the opinion
of Josephus as narrator. Most of the time they reflect the perspective
of certain characters in the narrative.
V.1. Ezekias and his fellow brigands
The first passage in The Jewish Antiquities that hints at Herod being
a tyrant focuses on killing persons without a trial. Herods assault on
the chief-brigand Ezekias, as well as his fellows, has already been discussed in connection with Herods image in the War. The Antiquities
expands the report of this event and, especially, its aftermath (Ant.
14.158184); it also returns to this episode at the beginning of book
15 in three flashbacks (Ant. 15.2, 4, 18).
A minor addition in the Antiquities to the War report about Ezekias end is the emphasis on Herods youth when his father entrusted
the Galilee to him: Josephus claims that Herod was only fifteen years
old at the time (Ant. 15.158)! This indication of Herods age must be
a mistake, because it does not match other details about Herods life.
Herod was probably about twenty-five when he took action against
Ezekias and his brigands.41 Nevertheless, the emphasis of Josephus


Otto 1913, 18; Marcus and Wikgren 1963, 533 note d.


jan willem van henten

as narrator should be taken seriously here. Josephus emphasizes that

Herod behaved as a tyrant when he was fifteen.
The aftermath of the execution again associates the young Herod
with tyranny. While the Syrians and the Romans apparently appreciated Herods elimination of Ezekias gang, prominent Jews were very
unhappy with Antipater and his sons actions.42 They complained to
Hyrcanus II and accused Antipater that he and his sons exceeded their
authority, but their main target appeared to be Herod (Ant. 14.163168).
They recalled Herods unlawful execution of Ezekias and his men,
which was neither authorized by Hyrcanus nor by the Synhedrion
(14.167).43 Their accusations and the dramatic daily appeals in the
temple by the mothers of the murdered brigands (14.168) made Hyrcanus put Herod on trial (14.168178).44
Herod survived the trial, which must have been part of a complicated
struggle for power between several factions. In Ant. 14.177 Josephus
notes that the members of the Synhredrion intended to have Herod
executed.45 Josephus provides conflicting information about Herods
acquittal or escape from the trial,46 but one sentence that leads up to
the accusation against Herod is particularly relevant for my argument.
It demonstrates the fear that the prominent Jews felt about the power
of Antipater and his sons: But the chief Jews were in great fear when
they saw how violent and bold Herod was, and how much he longed
for a rule as a tyrant (
, Ant. 14.165). The association of illegal executions with tyranny matches the tyrannical stereotype,47 but the statement is not elaborated and it is put forward by a group of Herods


Cf. 14.163 ( ) with 14.165 ( ).

The reference to the Synhedrion is unique to the Antiquities report. Ant. 14.167
implies that the execution of every person, even a criminal, had to be brought before
the Synhedrion. The requirements for a trial are already indicated in the Pentateuch
(Deut 1:1617; 19:1521; cf. Num 35:30; Deut 17:28), but Josephus reference to the
Synhedrion as a single body in the forties of the first century bce is, perhaps, anachronistic, McLaren 1991, 7477.
This detail is highly implausible, the mothers look like lobbyists but were, in fact,
living near the Syrian border. Jerusalemites would not have shed tears over the death
of robbers near the Syrian border.
Their strategy backfired according to Samaias prediction about Herod during
his trial (Ant. 14.174175; also 15.4) that he would kill all members of the Synhedrion
except himself, and Hyrcanus as well, which became true according to Ant. 14.175.
The sequel of the narrative confirms this explicitly only for Hyrcanus (Ant. 15.164
179). The death of the Synhedrion members is, perhaps, implied in Ant. 15.24.
Ant. 14.170, 177, 182 and War 1.211.
See Otanes argument Herod. 3.803, discussed here in section II; and Livy
1.49.45 concerning L. Tarquinius Superbus.

constructing herod as a tyrant


opponents. The narrator does not explicitly side with this accusation,
but the position of this statement at the very beginning of the narrative
about Herods career, as well as the suggestive vocabulary (violent,
, bold, and longing for a rule as a tyrant), implies
a proleptic function for this passage. It reads as a marker for Herods
characterization: to some Jews Herod was a very dangerous person
from the beginning of his public performance onward. In their opinion Herod was naturally violent and bold, and his ambition was to
rule as a tyrant.
V.2. Complaints by the Gadarenes
A second passage concerns Ant. 15.354, which reports that the citizens
of the Decapolis city of Gadara, located south-east of Lake Gennesaret,
were dissatisfied with Herod. Gadara was added to Herods territory
in 30 bce (War 1.396; Ant. 15.217). After Herods death it became
a free city again.48 Ant. 15.351 mentions complaints by Gadarenes
against Herod before M. Agrippa in Mytilene (2321 bce). These are
unspecified but mentioned together with complaints by Zenodorus.
When Augustus visited Syria in 20 bce, most of the Gadarenes complained to him personally (Ant. 15.354359). Herod was too severe in
his commands and acted like a tyrant ( ,
15.354). Zenodorus had promised to transfer the Gadarenes to Caesars territory (i.e. Syria), which prompted them to accuse Herod of
outrageous acts, robberies, and destructions of temples (15.357). This
list fits the accusation of tyrannical behavior in 15.354. Yet, the accusation may well be an exaggeration,49 because it is, in part, refuted by
Josephus text itself. Herods behavior to the Gadarenes, as described
by Josephus, suggests a merciful attitude. The kings actions were not
that of a tyrant: he released the Gadarenes, whom Agrippa had sent
to him in chains, after their accusations (Ant. 15.351, 354). Josephus
own remarks as narrator support the image of a gentle Herod. He
makes the following generalizing comment on Herods policy: For
more than anyone else he had the reputation of being inexorably harsh
for his own people, but of being generous to foreigners by letting them
go after they had done wrong. (15.356). Augustus acquitted Herod of

For a brief survey of the history of Gadara, see Schrer 19731987, vol. 2,
With Schalit 2001, 30607, who refers elsewhere to this passage as an example of
the dissatisfaction of the Greek cities with Herods rule (p. 212).


jan willem van henten

the charges by the Gadarenes, which seems to have been the end of
this case.50
V.3. The two Mariammes
Ant. 15.70 describes the responses by Herods first wife Mariamme and
her mother Alexandra to the kings order to kill them in case he would
not return from his visit to Egypt. Herod had to meet Marc Antony
in Egypt in order to counter the accusation that he had murdered
Mariammes brother Aristobulus (Ant. 15.6267; 35/34 bce). Herod
gave the secret order to his brother-in-law Joseph, who replaced him
during his absence.51 The passage with the reaction of both women to
Herods order reads:
Yet, the women [Mariamme and Alexandra], as is likely, did not grasp52
the affection of Herods disposition to them in advance, but the cruelty
of it; if he would die they would not escape destruction and a tyrannical
death. So they considered the deeper sense of what was said to be cruel
(Ant. 15.70; cf. 15.85, 204, 208).

A tyrannical death probably implies here a death caused by a tyrant,

which means that Mariamme and Alexandra associate Herods decision with the behavior of a cruel tyrant. Information in the context
explains the motives for Herods behavior. Herod had his doubts
about getting away with the accusation concerning Aristobulus (15.67).
Antonys partner Cleopatra was happy to have Herod executed in
order to take over his kingdom.53 Josephus adds the reason for Herods
secret order to kill Mariamme if he would not survive his trip to Egypt:
For he, he said, felt great affection for his wife and feared the outrage
that somebody else would court her after his death. (Ant. 15.66). This
fear is immediately associated with Antony (15.67), who had received
a portrait from Mariamme through Alexandras scheming (15.2627).


Schrer 19731987, vol. 2, 134.

Ant. 15.65 suggests that Joseph was Herods uncle, but other passages seem to
contradict this. War 1.441 and Ant. 15.81 note that Joseph was Salomes husband,
and Ant. 15.169 implies that Josephus was unaware of Joseph being Herods uncle.
Several scholars suggest, therefore, that the Greek uncle is a mistake in Ant.
15.65; the original text may have read brother-in-law, Marcus and Wikgren
1963, 33 note d.
Perhaps one should translate believe with MSS LAMW.
Van Henten 2005.

constructing herod as a tyrant


Herod apparently could not bear the thought that he would have a
rival who courted Mariamme (15.82).
The parallel passage in the War (1.441443) explains Herods motive
for his secret order differently. Joseph revealed the secret to Mariamme
out of a desire to give proof to the woman of the kings love for
her, since not even in death could he endure to be separated from
her. (War 1.441; see also 1.442). Mariammes immediate response to
Herods boasting of his love for her is quite cynical when she reveals
her knowledge about the order: No doubt you have given a fine demonstration of the love between us with your instructions to Joseph to
put me to death. (1.442). The continuation of the narrative describes
in a tantalizingly brief way that Herod lost control of himself because
of his anger and jealousy; and so he ordered the execution of both
Mariamme and Joseph (War 1.443).54 However, there is no hint whatsoever, in this War passage, that Herod acted as a tyrant.
The execution of Mariamme comes much later in the Antiquities
and its prehistory is told at length this time. It comes to a dramatic
climax after Herods return from his successful meeting with Octavian
on the island of Rhodes (Ant. 15.185187, 202239).55 Mariamme is
devastated once again by Herods orders to have her killed in case
he himself would find death abroad. This time Josepus and Soaemus
were ordered to execute her.56 Herod was torn between extreme
feelings of anger, hatred and love (15.211212, 214, 229). A wellprepared arrangement, with the kings cup-bearer, by Herods sister
Salome eventually leads to Mariammes execution (Ant. 15.223239).57

The parallel passage in the Antiquities reports that only Joseph was executed, and
Alexandra put in custody (Ant. 15.87).
This implies another date for Mariammes death, 29 bce instead of 3435 bce
(above). Otto 1913, 10, argues that Josephus incorporated two conflicting sources
about Mariammes death and that Nicolaus of Damascus gave the later date. Schalit
2001, 11416, 13238 and 57588 (esp. 587), considers Josephus detailed description
of Mariammes end in the Antiquities for the greatest part ficitious, but argues that
Mariammes growing hatred of Herod, Salomes involvement in Mariammes death,
and Herods order to kill her as reported in the Antiquities are historical.
Herods order to Josepus and Soaemus to execute Mariamme at Alexandreion is,
perhaps, a doublet of the kings order to Joseph, or the other way around, see Schrer
19731987, vol. 1, 302 n. 49 with references. Schalit 2001, 116, considers both orders
historical, because Herod was twice in a very dangerous situation, first his meeting
with Antony in Egypt and next the meeting with Octavian at Rhodes. Herod may have
dealt with his affairs at home in both situations in analogous ways.
Cf. the very brief and general note about Salomes confirmation of the rumor
about Mariammes affair with Joseph in War 1. 443.


jan willem van henten

Salomes plan came to fruition when Mariamme refused to lie down

with Herod. Mariammes statement in the narrative conveys one of
the main features of tyrannical behavior, that of murdering ones own
When the king was laying down to rest at noon, he called for Mariamme
out of the affection he always felt for her. She did come in, but did not lie
down, although he urged her to. She poured contempt on him and railed
that he had killed her father58 and her brother. (Ant. 15.222).

Mariammes accusation that Herod murdered his relatives foreshadowed her own demise.
Mariammes brief hint at Herods tyrannical behavior seems a small
detail in the elaborate report about her death in the Antiquities, but it
does not stand on its own. It repeats her earlier outcry in connection to
Herods order to Joseph and is followed by a remark in connection to
another wife of Herod. Around 24 bce the king married the daughter
of Simon, son of Boethus, a priest from Alexandria (Ant. 15.319322).
Her name was also Mariamme (War 1.562, 573, 599).59 Josephus introduction of this marriage in the Antiquities is telling: He also took a
wife for himself. This was motivated out of sexual desire because he did
not have high regard for a happy family life. (Ant. 15.319). Josephus
notes another reason for Herods decision: she was the most beautiful
woman of her time (Ant. 15.320). Josephus characterizes Herod as a
powerful macho man, who can easily afford to take the most beautiful
woman around and arrange a marriage with her. For our discussion
of Herod as a tyrant, one sentence is important in this Antiquities
passage. Josephus tells us that Herod decided to marry her in order to
prevent rumors: Yet, he rejected the thought of accomplishing everything by using his power, suspecting, which was true, that he would be
accused of using force as well as of tyrannical behavior, and considered
it better to marry the maiden. (Ant. 15.321).
Herod, therefore, struck a deal with Simon, the girls father, and
offered him the high priesthood. Josephus notes in passing that Herod
pursued his desire in a quite reasonable way (Ant. 15.322).
There is no parallel report in The Jewish War about this arrangement of a marriage with a second extraordinarily beautiful Mariamme.
The hint at Herods use of force and tyranny in connection with this


MS L and E: grandfather.
Other passages mention Boethus as her father, Schrer 19731987, vol. 1, 32021;
vol. 2, 229.

constructing herod as a tyrant


Mariamme is contradicted by Josephus own comment in Ant. 15.322.

However, the suggestion that Herod may have been a tyrant was nevertheless given to Josephus readers. It recalls the protest of the first
Mariamme against Herods two orders to kill her if he himself would
die abroad.
V.4. Herods law concerning burglary
Most of book 16 of the Antiquities deals with the lamentable fate of
Mariammes sons by Herod, Alexander and Aristobulus, but Josephus
introduction concerns a different topic. It is a brief report about a new
law with a few narratorial comments (Ant. 16.15). Nevertheless, this
introduction sets the tone for the rest of book 16, and expresses the
view of the narrator about Herod. Josephus calls Herods law an offence
against (Jewish) religion ( , Ant. 16.2).
Criminal acts in the city of Jerusalem as well as the Judean countryside made Herod draw up a harsh law concerning burglary
(Ant. 16.12). Josephus notes that it was very hard for those who
were caught and it also implied the abolition of the ancestral customs
( , Ant. 16.2). This second point
ties in with Josephus comments elsewhere that Herods innovations
resulted in the abolition of the ancestral customs.60 Josephus explains
this point by contrasting Herods law with the ancestral laws. Herods
law implied that thieves were sold as slaves and exported to foreign
territories (Ant. 16.1). Its consequence was not only that these slaves
had to live among non-Jews (16.2), which rendered the observance
of Jewish practices difficult if not impossible; it also made their slavery unlimited (16.3), because non-Jews could hardly be supposed to
keep the Jewish laws. Josephus further explains that the Jewish laws
concerning theft were based upon restitution and compensation by
temporary slavery if restitution was impossible: For the laws commanded that a thief pays a fourfold fine, and that he is to be sold if he
is not able to, but at any rate not to foreigners so that he would have
to endure perpetual slavery. For he had to be released after a period
of six years. (Ant. 16.3).
This passage paraphrases and re-interprets several related passages
in the Mosaic laws concerning theft. The passage in Exodus 21:37
states that thieves should provide restitution for what they had stolen:
Clear cases are the trophies in Jerusalem and the golden eagle, see above
subsection IV.


jan willem van henten

five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.61 In his own rendering of this passage Josephus takes a fourfold restitution as the usual
compensation and a fivefold one as the exception (Ant. 4.271272).62
Exodus 22:3 is also taken up in Ant. 16.3, which formulates that if
thieves were not capable of supplying restitution, they had to be sold.
The main issue, that Jewish slaves had to be released after six years of
servitude is based on Exodus 21:2.
Josephus conclusion about Herods law, in this brief introductory
section, is devastating for Herods image. It emphasizes the kings
tyrannical character with several hints at a tyrannical stereotype: That
the punishment, as it was laid down then, became hard and unlawful,
demonstrated his arrogance; whereby he was keen on imposing the
punishment not in a king-like but in a tyrannical way, neglectful of
the public interest of his subjects. (16.4).
The passage lists harshness, arrogance, unlawful measures, tyrannical
punishment and neglect of his subjects. A brief second narratorial
comment suggests that Herods law concerning burglary was exemplary for the kings other measures and that it explained the hatred of
his subjects and their accusations against the king: Now, these deeds,
taking place in the same way as his other actions, were part of (the reason for) their accusations and dislike of him. (16.5). The plural form
in this sentence suggests more of the same and implies that Herod
really was a bad king. It should be noted, however, that Josephus does
not elaborate his accusation in the continuation of his narrative, which
switches to Herods trip to Rome (16.6.).

VI. Conclusion
My survey of Josephean passages that present Herod the Great as
a tyrant implies a principle difference between the passages in the
War and those in the Antiquities. Apart from one or two scattered
hints (War 1.493494, 586), the Jewish War only depicts Herod as
a tyrant in a flashback embedded in the narrative about Archelaus
(War 2.8492). This flashback is paralleled and broadened in the


Cf. Exod. 22:3, 6. 8.

Feldman 2000, 43239. 2 Sam. 12:6 about Nathans parable also mentions a fourfold restitution.

constructing herod as a tyrant


Antiquities (17.304314), with the important addition that Josephus

now suggests that Herod was a tyrant by nature. This becomes explicit
in the report about the golden eagle (Ant. 17.148164) and its aftermath, but on closer inspection Josephus already hints at Herods tyrannical character in the narrative about his first official performance. The
elimination of Ezekias and his fellow brigands (Ant. 14.165) shows
that he did not have scruples about illegal executions. Other short
statements from characters in the narrative or comments by Josephus
himself associate Herod time and again with tyrants of the wicked
type (Ant. 15.70, 222, 321, 353; 16.15), but the theme comes only to
a narrative climax in the golden eagle section.
Thus, Josephus transformed Herods image in the narrative of the
Antiquities and turned the king into a tyrant by showing, initially in
bits and pieces but constantly from the golden eagle episode onwards,
that Herod displayed the tyrannical characteristics listed in the flashback in Ant. 17.304314. In my view, Josephus is suggesting that
Herod openly behaved as a tyrant during the final period of his rule,
but that he had it in him from the beginning, as his action against
Ezekias shows. If we combine Josephus description of Herods final
period with the brief passages about earlier incidents of tyrannical
rule, the result is an elaborate picture of a tyrant that includes most of
the characteristics of the tyrannical stereotype discussed at the beginning of this paper: hybris, autocracy, legal injustice, abolition of ancestral customs, violation of decency, violence against opponents, cruelty,
murder of relatives, susceptibility to slander, envy of excellent subjects,
fear of friends and, finally, madness: behavior like a wild animal. We
have noted several times that this image does not always fit the context
or the purport of the narrative. We can only speculate about Josephus
motives for re-crafting Herods image in the Antiquities as a brutal
tyrant who only showed himself in his true colors at the end of his life.
Perhaps he has blackened the king more in his later work in order to
disqualify a monarchic administration for the Jews and enhance support for another type of government. Or he may have adapted Herods
image as a means to respond to political changes in Rome, or, perhaps,
even to express a subtle criticism of the ruling Roman elite and their
treatment of Jewish subjects.63 We will never know for sure.


See Spilsbury 2003.


jan willem van henten


Berve, H. 1967. Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen. 2 vols. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Chapman, H., Forte, A., Mason, S., and Sievers, J. forthcoming. Jewish War 13.
S. Mason (ed.), Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary. Leiden: Brill.
Feldman, L. H. 2000. Judean Antiquities 14. Vol. 3 in S. Mason, ed., Flavius Josephus:
Translation and Commentary. Leiden: Brill.
Henry, R. 1967. Photius: Bibliothque. Texte tabli et traduit. Vol. 5; Paris: Les Belles
Henten, J. W. van, 1997. The Maccabean Martyrs as Saviours of the Jewish People:
A Study of 2 and 4 Maccabees. Leiden: Brill.
. 1999. The Ancestral Language of the Jews in 2 Maccabees. Pages 5368 in
W. Horbury (ed.), Hebrew Study from Ezra to Ben-Yehuda. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.
. 2000. Nero Redivivus Demolished: the Coherence of the Nero Traditions in the
Sibylline Oracles. JSP 21:317.
. 2005. Cleopatra in Josephus: From Herods Rival to the Wise Rulers Opposite.
Pages 11332 in A. Hilhorst and G. H. van Kooten (eds), The Wisdom of Egypt:
Jewish, Early Christian, and Gnostic Essays in Honour of Gerard P. Luttikhuizen.
Leiden: Brill.
. 2006. Ruler or God? The Demolition of Herods Eagle. Pages. 25786 in
J. Fotopoulos (ed.), New Testament and Early Christian Literature in Greco-Roman
Context: Studies in Honor of David E. Aune. Leiden: Brill.
. 2008. The Panegyris in Jerusalem: Responses to Herods Initiative (Josephus,
Ant. 15.268290). Pages 15173 in A. Houtman, A. de Jong and M. Misset-van de
Weg (eds), Empsychoi LogoiReligious Innovations in Antiquity: Studies in Honour
of Pieter Willem van der Horst Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity 73; Leiden:
Kasher, A. and E. Witztum. 2007. King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor: A Case Study
in Psychohistory and Psychobiography. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Landau, T. 2006. Out-Heroding Herod: Josephus, Rhetoric, and the Herod Narratives.
Leiden: Brill.
Marcus, R. and A. Wikgren. 1963. Josephus. Jewish Antiquities Books XVXVII.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
McLaren, J. S. 1991. Power and Politics in Palestine: The Jews and the Governing of their
Land 100 b.c.a.d. 70. Sheffield: JSOT Press.
Michel, O., and Bauernfeind, O. 19621969. Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico: der
jdische Krieg Griechisch und Deutsch. Vols 13.2; Mnchen: Ksel-Verlag.
Moss, C. 1969. La tyrannie dans la Grce antique. Paris: Presses universitaires de
Otto, W. 1913. Herodes. PRE Suppl. 2.1205.
Rengstorf, K. H. 19731983. A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus. 4 vols;
Leiden: Brill.
Sandmel, S. 1967. Herod, Profile of a Tyrant. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
Schalit, A. 2001. Knig Herodes: der Mann und sein Werk. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Schrer, E. 19731987. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Christ (175 bc
ad 135). A New English Version. Revised and edited by G. Vermes, F. Millar,
M. Goodman and M. Black. 3 vols; Edinburgh: T & T Clark.
Spilsbury, P. 2003. Flavius Josephus on the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.
JTS: 124.

Tessel M. Jonquire

The episode about Josephus at Jotapata (War 3.340392) has been a
subject of discussion for as long as people have been studying Josephus
or even reading his writings. People judge Josephus because of this
story; they call him a traitor, someone who played a double game. But
why did he write about the incident in this way? It must have been
important for Josephus to address the incident, since at the time he
apparently was accused of treason because of his decision to surrender.
But what he wrote hardly exonerates him. This could mean that it contains an element of truth. Another argument for this is that he had the
Romans reading over his shoulder, and since they were also present in
Jotapata and may have known what really happened, we can assume
that Josephus could not write complete nonsense. Unfortunately we
may never know whether Josephus wrote what truly happened, since
there are no other accounts of the event and since Josephus is both
author and main character. It is therefore interesting to review the episode once more and try to figure out why he wrote what he wrote.
In the story, Josephus presents himself differently from other stories,
in three ways: as a prophet, a priest and as a praying person. Nowhere
else in his work does he present himself in any of these three roles, and
the combination makes it all the more interesting to investigate them
further. A critical discussion of these three elements of the story may
shed a new light on Josephus method of writing his personal history.

The Story
When the Romans capture Jotapata, Josephus escapes and hides in
a cave. Here he meets some rich Jewish citizens who are also hiding.
Two men sent by Vespasian find the cave and ask Josephus to give
himself up, but he does not trust them. Vespasian then sends Nicanor,


tessel m. jonquire

an old acquaintance of Josephus, to convince him that he truly does

not intend to trick him. At first Josephus still refuses to go with them,
but, when the soldiers get angry and try to set fire to the cave, he
remembers a dream he once had in which God foretold to him the
misfortune of the Jews and the fate of the Roman emperors. Since he
himself is a dream interpreter, Josephus thinks it is his duty to convey
this divine message to Vespasian. Therefore he decides to give himself
up; but before he goes with the Romans, he prays (War 3.340354).
After this prayer, Josephus wants to go with Nicanor, but the Jews
with him in the cave try to prevent him and suggest that killing himself
would be better than giving up a life of freedom. Thus Josephus, being
of the opinion that it would be a betrayal of Gods commands, should
he die before delivering the divine message, starts to speak to them
and argues in an extensive speech how wrong it would be to commit
suicide (361382). The other Jews are not persuaded however, but continue to resist. In the end, Josephus proposes that they should all kill
each other, determining who should kill whom by drawing lots. This
they agree to. In the event, however, Josephus survives the collective
suicide (together with one other man whom he convinces to choose
life over death) and goes with Nicanor to Vespasian (383392).1
The whole episode in the cave must have been important for Josephus himself, since it marked the transition from his Judean life to his
life as a writer in Rome. Moreover, it was about the moment that saved
his life but that also made him known as a traitor among his own
people. The decision Josephus made had significant consequences, so
it is interesting to see how he explains it.

Prophet, Priest and Prayer

Several aspects stand out from the story. Firstly, it is the only time he
speaks of himself as a prophet; secondly, it is the only time he refers
to his practice as a priest; and finally, it is the only time in his entire
work he attributes a prayer to himself. In the following section, each
of these aspects will be discussed separately.

In Life Josephus only casually refers to these events saying that he gave a detailed
description of them in War (Life 412).

why josephus wrote what he wrote


Josephus writes that he decided to surrender because he remembered
a revelation, a vision that came to him in his dreams, which he was
unable to interpret until now. From what he writes, it is obvious that
Josephus sees himself as a prophet: someone who receives a message
from God concerning events in the future and sees it as his duty to
bring this message to the people concerned.
Josephus does not use the word literally, but he uses many
expressions that are related.2 To begin with, he starts by saying that he
found a place to hide aided by some divine providence (341); when
the Romans set fire to the cave, suddenly he remembers those nightly
dreams, in which God had foretold to him the impending fate of the
Jews and the destinies of the Roman sovereigns (351). He explains
that he was an interpreter of dreams and skilled in divining the
meaning of ambiguous utterances of the Deity (352). In his prayer,
he says that God chose his spirit to announce the things that are to
come and that he is Gods servant (354). He responds to the Jews
who want to prevent him from surrendering that he believes he is
meant to deliver Gods message (362). When Josephus finally stands
before Vespasian, he says that he has come as a messenger of greater
destinies: he is sent on this errand by God (400). Finally, Vespasian
releases Josephus because of his predictions, which had proven to
be divine (4.625). Later, he calls Josephus a minister of the voice of
God (4.626).
It cannot be denied that in this episode Josephus portrays himself as
a prophet. He does so on no other occasion: he is a general, a writer, of
priestly descent, but nowhere is he a prophet, except at Jotapata.3
There are two statements from which we know the content of the
revelation. In 3.351, he says that God foretold the impending fate of
the Jews and the destinies of the Roman sovereigns. From the prayer
in 354 we know that the message concerned the Jews, the Romans

See also the chapter on Josephus as prophet in Gray 1993, 3579. See for an
opposite view Feldman 1990, f.i. 40506, 408, 422, who claims that Josephus did not
look upon himself as a prophet.
Josephus compares himself to Jeremiah in War 5.391393. But in this text he refers
to the similarity of their warning messages and the peoples reaction to these messages
(Jeremiah was not punished by either king or people, whereas Josephus is attacked).
Josephus does not, however, parallel himself to Jeremiah as a prophet. He calls his
message to the people an exhortation () rather than a prophecy.


tessel m. jonquire

and himself. Later we learn that an important part of it consisted in

the prediction of Vespasian becoming emperor. Other things we know
about the revelation are: that it came to him in more than one dream
(351, 353); that the dreams came from God (351); that he had them
recently (353); that they were horrible (353); and that they concerned
events that were to happen in the future (354).
But there are some snags in the story. The revelation comes to Josephus in nightly dreams. It is, however, strange that he does not record
the exact contents of the dreams, apart from stating that they were
horrible (353): this is in contrast to other occasions, even in War, where
he relates the dreams of Archelaus (2.112113) and Glaphyra (2.226)
extensively.4 He also describes a dream of his own in Life (208209).
But concerning these important dreams, that saved his life, Josephus
remains vague: he just relates their meaning, and even this he only
conveys in general terms.
Another strange thing is how he suddenly understands the meaning of the dreams: though with the help of scripture. Nowhere else in
his work does Josephus describe the interpretation of a dream with
the use of the sacred books. People like Joseph and Daniel interpret
dreams with the knowledge they themselves have. This is also what
Josephus says: he became inspired (). But he says that he was
inspired by the books. What part or which prophecies helped him,
however, he does not tell. We will get back to this subject later.
Josephus described himself as a prophet in receiving the revelation, but
he says that he used his skills as a priest to decode the message. This is
not the only time Josephus calls himself a priest: he does so on several
occasions; but this is the only occasion on which he writes of himself
as exercising his priestly skills. The other instances are more concerned
with the status of being a priest rather than with the function.5
From the beginning of Life we know that Josephus comes from a
priestly family and that he was educated as such. He was well-known
for his skills at interpreting the law (79). In Life 198, he presents himself

See also many dreams in the Antiquities, as for example those dreamt or interpreted by Joseph (Ant. 2.1113, 64, 71, 8083) and Daniel (Ant. 10.206207, 216). For
more dreams see Gnuse 1996.
Rajak 1983, 18.

why josephus wrote what he wrote


as a priest, parallel to calling himself from Jerusalem and having

expert knowledge of the law. In the preface to War, he introduces
himself as Joseph, son of Matthias, a priest from Jerusalem (War 1.3).
In Against Apion 1.54, he tells his readers that he translated the
sacred writings, being a priest by birth and having studied the
philosophy in those writings.6 Implicitly he is saying that he was thus
the right person for the job. He says something similar in Antiquities
20.264, where he says that his people, when it comes to writing down
their history, prefer knowledge of the laws over language skills. It is
debatable whether this is a case of priestly status or function. I think he
uses it as a background here, just to convince people of his suitability,
rather than to portray himself as a priest working with the books.
But this is what he does in the story about the revelation at Jotapata.
We practically see Josephus exercise his skills; he is interpreting his
dreams with the help of the scriptures. Because he is a priest, he knows
the prophecies of the sacred books; at this crucial moment he becomes
inspired by those books ( . . ., . . . ) and reads
the meaning of his dreams, which tell him about a prophecy.
The prophecy
The prophecy that Josephus tells Vespasian, is mentioned by other
writers as well: Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio recall the prophecy.
Both Suetonius and Cassius Dio mention that it was Josephus who
foretold Vespasians rise to power.7 It is, however, very possible that
they knew Josephus writings. Suetonius may even have known Josephus himself; Cassius Dio may have learned of it from Suetonius, if
not from Josephus own work.
Tacitus, however, is a different case. He does not mention Josephus
name, but speaks of an existing prediction. Tacitus says: There was
a firm persuasion that in the ancient records of their [i.e. the Jews,
TJ] priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the

Translation Whiston.
Suetonius, Divus Vespasianus 5.6: And when Josephus, one of the noble prisoners,
was put in chains, he confidently affirmed that he should be released in a very short
time by the same Vespasian, but he would be emperor first. Cassius Dio, Historia
Romana 66: 1.4: These portents needed interpretation; but not so the saying of a
Jew named Josephus: he, having earlier been captured by Vespasian and imprisoned,
laughed and said: You may imprison me now, but a year from now, when you have
become emperor, you will release me.


tessel m. jonquire

East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to
acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to
Vespasian and Titus. (Historiae 5.13)
Tacitus tells us that there was a tradition which said that in Jewish
scripture the rise of a ruler from the East was predicted. Turning to
Jewish texts, we meet with the notion indeed. We read it in Isaiah
41, where there is talk of a king from the East that will dominate all
people because God will give him power. In Isaiah the reference is
obviously meant to point to Cyrus. But we also see the idea in the
Sibylline Oracles III, 652656: And then God will send a king from
the East, who will give the entire earth rest from evil war, by killing
some and making treaties with others. He will not do all these things
by his own plans, but trusting the noble orders of the great God.8
It is very possible that Josephus was aware of this notion, just as
Tacitus was. Possibly Josephus did indeed make some prediction when
he came out of the cave: it is rather big to lie about, since there were
witnesses to the event. It is also obvious that Josephus linked the old
Jewish tradition to Vespasian, at least at the time of writing. In War
6.312313 he speaks about an ancient oracle found in the Sacred
Scriptures. He says that the Jews thought it was going to be someone
of their own people, but, Josephus says, in reality it signified the sovereignty of Vespasian, who was proclaimed emperor on Jewish soil.
Now we get back to Josephus acting as a priest; since it was apparently believed that the rise of the ruler was predicted in Jewish scripture, it was all the more logical for Josephus to say that he was able to
understand his dream by way of the sacred books.
The third unusual element Josephus brings into the story is the prayer.
It is unusual for the following three reasons. Firstly, it is the only prayer
in his entire work that Josephus attributes to himself. Secondly, in contrast to the Antiquities, there are only few prayers in War (namely 12,
as opposed to 122 in the Antiquitates); and most of these few prayers
are very minor, containing just a short reference. But this one is quite
extensive, and even written in direct speech. This occurs several times
in the Antiquities, but in War this prayer is the only one written in

Buitenwerf 2003, 27374.

why josephus wrote what he wrote


such a way. All of this makes the prayer especially noteworthy: contrary to writing speeches (which are numerous in War), Josephus was
not yet used to writing prayers when he wrote this work. He (probably) did not have a source which used prayers, as he had when he
wrote the Antiquities; the fact that he used a prayer at this point is
telling and makes the content all the more interesting.
The third particularity is the subject and function of the prayer. In
my book on prayer in Josephus work, I have argued that Josephus
uses prayers as literary instruments in his stories.9 Almost every time
he writes a prayer (even if he does so in a story based on a source
which had a prayer as well), he seems to have a purpose for it: he
either dramatizes the story, portrays character, gives the story a slight
twist or lays stress on certain aspects of it. In my book, I have grouped
all prayers with regard to their function. Yet Josephus prayer stands
on its own, being the only prayer obviously used to justify the actions
of the praying person: in this case, of course, his own. He even says so
himself: God, I ask you as a witness that I go away not as a traitor,
but as your servant (War 3.354).
The prayer is said to have been . comes
from , meaning to escape notice; in combination with a
noun, it means unnoticed. Josephus informs his readers that no-one
saw or heard him saying this prayer. This statement could mean one
of two things. The first possibility is that he really did pray at the time
and did not want to be seen by anyone while doing so. The second is
that he did not in fact pray at that moment but wanted to safeguard
himself against accusations of lying by people who were present and
who might say that they had not seen him pray.
Because Josephus is praying without being heard by the other
people in the cave, neither the Jews nor the Romans know Josephus
motive for wanting to surrender himself. Within the story, he does
not tell anyone about the revelation he has had and, as his prayer is
said secretly, no one is in a position to find out, exceptof course
Josephus readers.
In the prayer, Josephus briefly recalls the message God sent him:
God has decided to break down the Jewish nation, and to transfer
fortune to the Romans. Since God chose Josephus spirit to tell the
future, he is compelled to surrender and go with the Romans; he only

Jonquire 2007, 22140.


tessel m. jonquire

asks God to be his witness that he goes as Gods servant and not as a
traitor.10 It is of course his intention to let his readers know why he
decided to surrender. But why did he not just use an editorial comment, as he does so often?

I think Josephus chose to write in this way because of the severity of
the accusations that were made against him: he was called a traitor
to his own people. In order to justify himself, he had to use something powerful, something that appealed to his Jewish readers, and
this something was his religion, his piety. Had he written for a GrecoRoman audience, he might have done otherwise.
Prophet, priest, prayer: three words related to religion; all three particulars in a story used by Josephus as justification for his actions.
Prophets and priests are prominent members of the Jewish community. Stressing that he himself is both must have seemed especially
convincing to him; and saying that the prophecy he made to Vespasian
was already present in Jewish scripture, and that he explained it by
way of the sacred books, added to this.
The prayer shows Josephus piety in two ways. First, he says that
his surrender was no betrayal, but rather that it was what God truly
wanted him to do. He was not following the orders of the Roman
general who came to take him, but the will of God. At the start of the
episode Josephus says he refused to go, because it was his conviction
that he had to suffer for his previous actions (3.346). The decision to
go with the Romans after all, he motivates by saying (by way of the
prayer) that he was ordered to do so by God. He repeats this in 361,
where he writes that it would be a betrayal of Gods commands should
he die before delivering his message to Vespasian.
Secondly, the piety is shown because he preferred to explain his
behaviour by way of a prayer rather than by way of a speech or an
authorial remark. Josephus objective in War is to convince the Jews
that the Romans won the war because they served as an instrument
of God; with this he wants to convince them that further resistance

For a more detailed discussion of this and other elements of the prayer see
Jonquire 2007, 20713.

why josephus wrote what he wrote


is of no use. This prayer fits in very well with this purpose. With a
specifically Jewish instrument, a prayer to the God of their ancestors,
Josephus connects directly with his Jewish audience and shows them
that the only right thing for him to do at that moment was to surrender himself to the Romans.
In the introduction, we have already asserted that it is impossible
to determine what really happened in that cave. All we know is what
Josephus wrote, and he was not unbiased. We can, however, after this
discussion, say more of Josephus method of defending himself in
War: he did it in such a way that he hoped would make his Jewish
audience, who accused him of treason, understand. But of course he
also had to think of his Roman patrons, who had commissioned him
to write the history and who wanted him to convince the Jews with
it to accept the Roman governance. So that is why Josephus wrote
the story as he did; in order to justify himself to his people, he chose
a typically Jewish form, but he also made sure that the content was
acceptable to the Romans.

Buitenwerf, Rieuwerd. 2003. Book III of the Sibylline Oracles and its Social Settings,
Leiden: Brill.
Feldman, Louis H. 1990. Prophets and Prophecy in Josephus, in: Journal of Theological
Studies, NS 41 (1990), pp. 386422.
Gnuse, Robert K. 1996. Dreams & Dream Reports in the Writings of Josephus. A TraditioHistorical Analysis, Leiden: Brill 1996.
Gray, Rebecca. 1993. Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine: The
evidence from Josephus, New York: Oxford University Press.
Jonquire, Tessel M. 2007. Prayer in Josephus, Leiden: Brill.
Rajak, Tessa. 1983. Josephus, The Historian and his Society, London: Duckworth.


Aryeh Kasher

The Parthian Threat to the Roman Sway in the East

In late 41 bce, impelled by the great Parthian invasion, a massive
political upheaval took place in Syria and Palestine.1 Ostensibly, the
incursion wreaked havoc on Herods aspirations to the royal throne
after his engagement to Mariamme the Hasmonean (42 bce). But in
fact, one might say that it was a blessing in disguise for it was precisely
this event that paved his way to the crown2this without detracting
from fate or fortune ( ), an aspect Josephus was so fond of in
regard to Herodnor diminishing Herods own personal resourcefulness or manipulative abilities.3
When the Parthian forces poured into Syria, eventually reaching
Judea and Jerusalem (40 bce), Phasael and Herod found themselves
under siege by the Parthian commander Barzapharanes (or Brazaphranes) in the Hasmonean palace.4 Conflicts immediately erupted
between the two over their assessment of the situation and the possible
means of escape. Phasael deluded himself that, together with the high
priest John Hyrcanus II, he might be able to negotiate with Pacorus,
son of the Parthian monarch, to exit the besieged city of Jerusalem
without a fight and perhaps even win him over to their side by bribery
or other temptations greater than those promised by their rival, Mattathias Antigonus, son of Judas Aristobulus II.5 Herod, by contrast, did
Debevoise 1968, 108ff.; Stern 1995, 249255; but Kokkinos 1998, 368 offered
many references to correct the chronology. Flusser 2002, 5556 suggested that 1Enoch
56:58 describes the great Parthian invasion, which reached as far as Palestine and
likely created a messianic atmosphere.
War 1 284385; Ant. 14.384385, 403404; see e.g. Moore 1932, 74; Stern 1995,
See for example War 1.275, 301, 371, 430; esp. Ant. 14. 9, 381, 386387, 455;
15.20, 209, 373379, 17.191192.
War 1, 248252; Ant. 14.330341; Schalit 1969, 74ff.
Regarding Cassius Dios testimony to these events: He confused Aristobulus
with Antigonus (48.26.2), so that Josephus testimony is much more reliable, more-


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not trust the Parthians and suspected that they had resolved to support
Mattathias Antigonus because Herod and his brother Phasael had in
any case been identified by them as avowed followers of Rome. However, he did not prevent Phasael and John Hyrcanus II from carrying
out what they had agreed upon with Bazaphranes, i.e., holding direct
negotiations with Pacorus, who was in the northern part of the country
at the time. Herod himself, being extremely mistrustful by nature, had
many of his valued belongings transported to Idumaea for safekeeping (War 1.268; Ant. 14.364). After learning from various sources that
the mission of John Hyrcanus II and Phasael had met with failure and
that they had fallen captive to the Parthians,6 he managed to flee with
all due caution, for fear that a similar trap had been laid for him.7 As
recounted by Josephus, Herod fled Jerusalem in haste under the cover
of night, with the city surrounded by Parthian divisions and loyalists of
Mattathias Antigonus in addition to the many pilgrims who had come
there for the Shavuoth (Pentecost) festival, (War 1.253255, 263264;
Ant. 14.337ff.). It is possible that the public commotion might actually
have facilitated his escape; but it was certainly an astounding feat, considering that we are speaking of the clandestine flight of several hundred menitself a difficult logistical operation. Its success may also
have been due to the fortunate choice of a good exit point from the

over he lived roughly a whole century closer to the episode. According to War 1.248
and Ant. 14.331, Antigonus offered the Parthians a bribe of 1,000 talents and 500
women for their assistance in deposing John Hyrcanus II. Klausner, III, 260, suspected
that this was deliberate misinformation derived from Nicolaus of Damascus and
intended to defame Antigonus. Unfortunately, his premise can be neither proved nor
We are told that Phasael committed suicide in a noble manner: When he understood that he had no chance of survival, he beat his head upon a rock while his hands
and feet were chained (War 1.269; Ant. 14.367369). John Hyrcanus II was exiled to
Babylonia, but not before his ears were cut off so as to disqualify him from resuming
the high priesthood. War 1.269 says that Antigonus himself bit Hyrcanus ears with
his own teeth, as he fell down upon his knees. The parallel version in Ant. 14.366 simply stated that Antigonus cut off his ears. It is obvious that the first version is very
hostile to Antigonus and aimed to besmirch him as a savage. One should recall in this
context what Tacitus (Annales 12. 14) related about the Parthian custom of cutting off
the ears of an enemy, thereby humiliating him while sparing his life. The case of John
Hyrcanus should therefore be seen as inspired by Parthian practice, although the act
may have been committed with the knowledge and encouragement of Antigonus and
perhaps even in his presence.
It is worth noting that his mistrust of the Parthians did not prevent him from
later negotiating with them over the release of his captive brother Phasael; see War
1.274275; Ant. 14.371372.

josephus on herods spring


city, which we speculate was the Hasmonean citadel at the northwestern corner of Jerusalem bordering on the Valley of Hinnom, seeing
as one could more easily flee from there in a southeasterly direction
toward the desert. Herod took with him his close family members,
including Mariamme his betrothed, and her mother Alexandra,8 both
of whom encouraged him to seek a safe haven in Idumaea because of
their hostility toward Mattathias Antigonus, who, as stated, belonged
to a rival branch of the Hasmonean dynasty.
As there is no mention of Herods wife Doris in the account of
those who fled Jerusalem, it is reasonable to assume that she had separated from him, although without an actual divorce, in the wake of
his betrothal to Mariamme. No further information is available concerning Doris until 37 bce, when shortly after divorcing her Herod
married Mariamme.9 Presumably, she fled to Idumaea to take refuge
on her family land, perhaps in the desert portion of the region, which
would be safer in time of war.
During his flight from Jerusalem, Herod also tried to head in the
same direction, or, more precisely, to the fortress at Masada, which
he had conquered from Malichus brother only a short while earlier.10
It appears that he also felt unsafe in western Idumaea for fear that
the Parthian divisions, together with Antigonus, would swarm the
area in pursuit of himwhich indeed was the case, as we shall see
below. Doris was not among those who fled toward Masada for the
simple and understandable reason that her future successor (i.e.,
rival-wife) Mariamme, along with her mother Alexandra and young
brother Aristobulus, were headed there.
The route to Masada was fraught with great danger for those fleeing
there, as described in Ant. 14.359:

His commitment to see to her safety and her needs was most likely because of
his betrothal to her.
Perhaps this is the reason for the confusion caused by War 1.432 regarding the
date of Herods divorce from Doris, a matter that will be discussed below in the context of his marriage to Mariamme.
War 1.256ff.; Ant. 14.342ff.; see Schalit 1969, 7475; Smallwood 1981, 52. It is
important to note that there is no parallel in War, to the passage in Ant. 14.352358,
with the exception of a few coincidental points.


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Nor indeed was he free from the Jews all along as he was in his flight;11
for by that time he was gotten sixty furlongs out of the city, and was
upon the road, they fell upon him, and fought hand to hand with him
( ), whom he
also put to flight, and overcame, not like one that was in distress and in
necessity, but like one that was excellently prepared for war, and had
what he wanted in great plenty (trans. by Whiston).

From the first sentence of Josephus account, it is clear that the episode was very limited in scale from a military standpoint, i.e., it was a
hand-to-hand skirmish as opposed to an actual battle. Thus Herods
sense of glory, as cited in the second sentence, is not proportionate to
the scope of the event. Only in his imagination was this a great victory,
and only in retrospect did it become a fact deemed worthy of serious
consideration and typical Herodian treatment in the form of a colossal
monument like the Herodiumall in order to immortalize the event
for generations to come and evoke a sense of awe.
According to Ant. 14.361, while fleeing the site of the clash in the
direction of Idumaea, or more precisely, at the site known as Oressa,12
Herod met his brother Joseph and there he held a council [with him]
to take advice about all his affairs, and what was fit to be done in his
circumstances, since he had a great multitude ( ) that
followed him, besides his mercenary soldiers. He was well aware of
the fact that the fortress Masada, whither he proposed to fly, was
too small to contain so great a multitude ( ). For this
reason, he decided to send away the greater part of his company,
being above nine thousand, and bid them go, some one way, and some
another, and so save themselves in Idumea (ibid., 362). He himself
remained behind at the head of a small group including the women
(Mariamme his betrothed, her mother Alexandra, and his own mother
Cyprus, along with his younger sister Salome and his younger brother
Pheroras) and other members of his entourage.13 It seems that Herods

Graetz 1987, I, 482, 484) considered this detail to be further proof of the Jewish
peoples hatred of Herod and their determination to be rid of him despite his marriage to Mariamme. In Graetzs view, this was the real reason for the flight toward
Regarding the identification of the site, see Tsafrir, Di Segni, Green 1994, 98 (s.v.
Caphar Orsa).
This was apparently the group that fled with him from Jerusalem in the dark of
night. The 9,000 cited earlier could have joined him only when he arrived in Idumaea.
Apparently they were counted among the Idumaean warriors under the command of
his brother Joseph; see Shatzman 1983, 8081. If he had really had more than 9,000

josephus on herods spring


hold on Idumaea was not assured even after he dispatched his brother
Joseph and his men there, judging by the fact that revolts broke out in
the region upon his return from Rome after being crowned king (War
1.326).14 As stated above, Herod did manage beforehand to secure
valuable possessions in hiding places in Idumaea (whose locations are
unknown to us), and even to boast of his foresight in this regard (Ant.
14.364),15 but in reality he was unable to realize these assets, even had
he wanted to, due to the urgency of his situation. The Parthians pursued his men deep into western Idumaea, where they rained destruction on the area and the regional center at Maresha (ibid.). Amid these
difficult circumstances, Herod set out for Petra to seek the assistance
of the Nabateans. But the Nabatean king Malichus I (56/728 bce)
refused his request and evaded payment of an old monetary debt to
Antipater under the pretext that the invading Parthians had forbidden him to come to Herods aid (War 1.274249; Ant. 14.370375),16
thereby causing Herods situation to deteriorate even further. According to Antiquities however, it was not the problems en route, nor the
dismal state of mind of the escapees that weakened Herodat least
not initially; rather, Herod experienced an emotional breakdown not
long afterward as the result of an event that took place during his
flight. Of the extreme shift in Herods mental state (which is especially
significant for our purposes), Josephus wrote in Ant. 14. 355358:
[355] But for Herod himself, he raised his mind above the miserable
state he was in, and was of good courage in the midst of his misfortunes;
and as he passed along, he bid them every one to be of good cheer, and
not to give themselves up to sorrow, because that would hinder them
in their flight, which was now the only hope of safety that they had.
[356] Accordingly, they tried to bear with patience the calamity they
were under, as he exhorted them to do; yet was he once almost going to
kill himself, upon the overthrow of a wagon, and the danger his mother
was then in of being killed; and this on two accounts, because of his
great concern for her, and because he was afraid lest, by this delay, the

warriors in Jerusalem, he would not have been in a position of such numerical inferiority, and would have been able to resist while still in the city.
Ben-Shalom 1993, 3637 and nn. 10, 1214.
Prophetic abilities were attributed to him after the fact by Nicolaus; but it is quite
possible that this was in full accordance with his own wishesand even at his request.
We will be returning to this important issue below.
Herod could later use this fact to tarnish the Nabateans in Roman eyes, and
conversely, to emphasize his loyalty to the Romans. This is exactly what happened to
Malichus; cf. Cassius Dio, 48.41.


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enemy should overtake him in the pursuit: [357] but as he was drawing
his sword, and going to kill himself therewith, those that were present
restrained him, and being so many in number, were too hard for him;
and told him that he ought not to desert them, and leave them a prey to
their enemies, for that it was not the part of a brave man to free himself
from the distresses he was in, and to overlook his friends that were in
the same distresses also. [358] So he was compelled to let that horrid
attempt alone, partly out of shame at what they said to him, and partly
out of regard to the great number of those that would not permit him to
do what he intended. So he encouraged his mother, and took all the care
of her the time would allow, and proceeded on the way he proposed to
go with the utmost haste, and that was to the fortress of Masada. And as
he had many skirmishes with such of the Parthians as attacked him and
pursued him, he was conqueror in them all (trans. by Whiston).17

It appears that Herod, in the wake of his flight and his mothers accident, found himself in a state of such profound stress and anxiety,
coupled with loss of control, that he impulsively tried to harm himself.
The serious injury and possible death of his mother were particularly
frightening to him, not only because she was the figure closest to him
after the death of his father and wielded the greatest influence over
him,18 but because the situation created a serious conflict: the projected delay to care for her was liable to endanger him personally. For
this reason, one can certainly describe this event as traumatic in that
there was a danger of losing an individual with whom he was especially
close, under circumstances that placed his own life in real danger. But
when his men prevented him from harming himself, Herod quickly
regained his composure, as attested to above (Ant. 14.357358).
From Josephus description, it emerges that Herods men actually
struggled physically to stop him; however, when he realized that his
mother was only injured, and apparently not as critically as he had initially believed, he composed himself. It is entirely possible that he was
also affected by criticism over his defeatist attitude. Josephus remarks
give the clear impression that his inner-circle caused him to be ashamed

There is no reference to this incident in War, which is more faithful to the proHerodian source of Nicolaus, ostensibly due to his tendency to conceal Herods weaknesses and faults. It is not clear from what source Josephus drew his information for
the Antiquities, version. Grant, 47, was inclined to doubt its authenticity, based on
the peculiar and unsubstantiated claim that the story may be a court legend to stress
his family feelings.
Josephus stated in War 1.417, when enumerating Herods building projects in
memory of his family, that he also loved his father more than anyone else.

josephus on herods spring


of his actions and, even more so, gave him the incentive to regain his
poise by expressing the fear that they themselves would be in mortal
danger from the enemy if left without his support and resourcefulness. Most likely, it was precisely this realization that his leadership
was crucial in this time of danger that helped restore his sense of calm
and infused him with renewed faith in his strength not only to survive
but also to triumph. The concluding sentence of the account offers
ample confirmation of this, especially since it makes general reference
to new acts of bravery, indicating that this passage was intended to set
the tone for future events. Indeed, when the attempt to harm himself
failed due to the swift intervention of his men, Herod was filled with
shame,19 particularly in light of the argument that suicide offers the
easy solution of escaping reality; in Josephus words (based on Schalits
Hebrew translation of Ant. 14.357), it is not the quality of a brave
man20 to extricate himself from his troubles and disregard his fellows
[who are] in such a state. The latter claim regarding Herods conduct
apparently held great significance in his eyes, especially since the trait
of bravery related to his self-image and was also implied by his Greek
name ,21 evoking in him the needand the pretentiousness
to justify it in the eyes of one and all whenever possible.
According to War 1.429430, Herod had always had a fierce desire
to be portrayed as a man of superior emotional qualities, as befitted his
physical attributes, which he sought to develop in various ways including physical training, javelin throwing (or lance), archery, horseback
riding, hunting, fighting, and the like. This positive assessment has
no parallel in Antiquities, where Josephus tended to criticize Herod
whenever possible.22 By contrast, the pro-Herodian War, relied on
such sympathetic sources as Nicolaus of Damascus, and reflected what
Herod wished to have written about himself. According to Josephus


It is important to recall in this context that shame and feelings of failure are
characteristic symptoms of Paranoid Personality Disorder, as mentioned in the Introduction of Levi 1997, 69, 107, 162, 18385.
The Greek source uses the term , meaning not noble (cf.
Marcuss translation, ad loc.). Schalits Hebrew translation interprets the phrase to
mean the quality of a brave man, apparently inspired by Whiston.
Schrer, I, pp. 29495, n. 20; Perowne, p. 23; cf. Liddell & Scott, p. 778 (s.v.
Especially blatant is his negative portrayal in Ant. 15.150159, which will later be
discussed in detail. While Josephus also praised him, this was mostly in cases when
Herod acted against the enemies of the Jews such as the Nabateans (for example, in
Ant. 14. 370, as cited earlier).


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(Ant. 14.370), when Herod regained his composure, he became even

more vigorous than before and was eager to hatch schemes involving acts of daring. These rapid and severe mood swings, suggestive
of cyclothymia, indicate a lack of emotional stability on Herods part,
not to mention the fact that his opinions became noticeably more
radical; further examples of these extreme fluctuations will be offered
below. This phenomenon was discerned even by Josephus himself, in
his remark in this context on Herods rapid transition from a state of
distress to vigorous activity (Ant. 14.370):
. . . the great miseries he was in did not discourage him, but made him
sharp in discovering surprising undertakings (trans. by Whiston).

Josephus recounted further that after Herod had regained his bearings, he managed to wage a successful battle to survive even as he
fled his pursuers through the Thekoa Desert.23 It later became clear
that these three eventshis mothers accident, his attempt to harm
himself, and his successful fight for survival in the desertleft such a
deep impression on his psyche that already at this point he thought
of erecting a personal monument near Thekoa at the first opportunity
in order to commemorate these incidents. In other words, the notion
of erecting a memorial to himself came to him shortly after the events
in question, and gave him no rest until he had acted on it. Also telling is the fact that his desert battle for survival was seen by him as a
heroic event when in reality it was nothing more than a skirmish along
the way (Ant. 14.359). Thus the justification for building this colossal
monument (Herodium) was, from beginning to end, a product of his
imagination, fed by his appetite for fame, glory, and immortality.

The Rift between Herod and the Nabateans

As part of the events surrounding his flight from Jerusalem, it is
recounted that Herod considered ransoming his brother Phasael from
his Parthian captors with funds that he wished to secure from Malichus, king of the Nabateans, some of it as repayment for a sum left
long ago in trust by his father Antipater and the rest in the form of a


War 1.265; Ant. 14. 359360, and see above.

josephus on herods spring


loan.24 Unlike his conduct in the past, this time he displayed a willingness to negotiate with the Parthians over the release of his brother,
even offering, in addition to the bribes, the young son of Phasael as a
hostage. It is quite possible that he secretly harbored the reprehensible
hope that the Parthians would in any case do away with both Phasael
and his son. From his perspective, such a move was even advantageous
since he would appear to be fulfilling his moral duty and familial loyalty toward his brother; and if he received money from the Nabatean
king, he would not be forced to give it as a bribe to the Parthians but
could use it to finance his future activities. The unresponsiveness on
the part of Malichus solved the problem of Phasael and his son for
Herod, and indeed there is no reference whatsoever, including in War,
to Herods having tormented himself over this.
It seems that in fact Malichus aloofness had significant and unexpected ramifications for the future of Herods relationship with the
Nabateans. A perusal of Josephus indicates that Malichus refusal to
help made him a traitor in Herods eyes, in other words, an enemy
who could no longer be trustedand even his ultimate regret was of
no use in this instance. On the contrary, Herod responded to later
efforts at conciliation with harsh words flung impulsively (War 1.277:
), sending away the Nabatean emissaries in a
rage. In our opinion, his furious reaction attests to a pattern of paranoid mistrust, in the sense of whoever is not for me is against me.
This extreme response in effect instantly turned all Nabateans into his
enemy. The insult dealt him by Malichus was beyond his capacity to
forgive or forget. The incident may have been particularly painful for
him, not only because of the fact that his request for help was rebuffed
but also because he felt it showed a disregard for the noble origins of
his Nabatean mother.
Events on the ground supported Herod in his conclusion that his
only hope lay with Rome; accordingly, he set out for the capital as
quickly as possible. Passing through Alexandria, he did not even consider the tempting offer by Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt, to appoint
him to a senior military post in her service.25 The Roman orientation


War 1.274275; Ant. 14. 371372.

War 1.279; Ant. 14. 376; no mention is made in Ant. of this offer. Grant (49)
believed that Herod took the risk of cooperating with her, but this is unsupported by
the sources. On the contrary, Herod suspected her of scheming against him. She may
already have been aware of Antonys political plans concerning Herod, particularly if


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had already been ingrained in him by his father, in addition to the

fact that he himself had experienced personal ties with Rome since the
days of Julius Caesar. Not only did his choice not disappoint him but
it was highly fortuitous in its timing, as we shall see below.

Herod is Crowned in Rome as King of Judea

Herod set sail for Rome from Alexandria in approximately mid-February 40 bce, that is, at the height of winter (War 1.280).26 Owing to the
seasonal storms, he could not sail directly across the Mediterranean
but chose a roundabout route along the coasts of Asia Minor and the
islands of the Aegean Sea. He was also forced to spend several months
in Rhodes preparing his ship at the local dockyards for the remainder of his journey to Rome (Ant. 14.378).27 He made use of the delay
to strengthen his ties with two local figures, Sappinas and Ptolemy
(Ptolemaeus), citizens of Rhodes whom he apparently knew from past
business dealings in Ascalon and who he believed could help open
doors for him in Rome and in the business world in general.28

we assume that she knew about the bribes offered by Herod to Antony to pave his
way to the crown (Ant. 14.382). Although there is no textual support for Cleopatras
plot to ensnare Herod through such a military appointment, the possibility is quite
reasonable in view of her later efforts to lure him astray when she visited the Jordan Valley to receive the revenues from the balsam plantations in the Jericho area
(Ant. 15.97103).
See the persuasive chronological computations of Kokkinos, pp. 367ff.
Grant (49) claimed that Cleopatra offered him a ship to sail to Rhodes, but this
has no support in the sources. On the contrary, Ant. 14.375377 gives the definite
impression that his voyage from Pelusium to Alexandria and later to Rhodes was
carried out on his own initiative. It is not clear whether he bought a new ship or
contented himself with repairing the first ship he found (cf. War 1.280, below); either
way, it is obvious that he wanted a ship of his own so as not to be dependent on others; cf. Perowne, pp. 5758.
On the prominent role of Ascalon in international trade during this period, see
Fuks, 8496; Dvorjetski, 99134. Sapphinius name is mentioned by Josephus only
three times (War 1.280; Ant.14.378; 16. 257; see Schalit, p. 107. Unfortunately, there
is no further information about him beyond the writings of Josephus. Concerning
Ptolemy, more information is available, since Josephus tells that he built an impressive political career under Herod, being nominated to the position of Dioiketes (minister of the royal finances) and royal seal-bearer in charge of executing the Kings
will; see Ant., 15. 191, 330; XVII, 195, 228; War 1.473, 667; II, 24, 69; Schalit, p. 84
(nn. 9798); Schrer, I, p. 311; Stern 1983, pp. 70, 77, 78, 86; Dar, pp. 3850, esp.
pp. 3841; Roller, pp. 6364, 233. Schalit and Dar believed they were related to Idumaean warriors who had fled Jerusalem as a result of the Parthian invasion and later

josephus on herods spring


Herod ultimately earned a name for himself in Rhodes by initiating,

along with these two men, a project to restore the city from the damage inflicted by the Roman civil war that broke out after the death of
Julius Caesar. In the words of Josephus, Herod, though he were in
necessity himself, he neglected not to do it a kindness, but did what
he could to recover it to its former state (ibid., 378).
In the parallel version in War (1.280), no mention is made of his
generosity; rather, it is noted only that despite his great financial difficulty, with the help of his two friends he managed to build a new
ship for himself. A number of scholars are inclined to accept the fuller
version of Antiquities, as correct.29 Be that as it may, it is reasonable
to assume that during his stay in Rhodes, Herod became aware of
the tremendous financial possibilities latent in the local Jewish community and their brethren in Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands, as
a result of the sizeable contributions they sent to Jerusalem. This had
already been demonstrated in the sensational trial of Flaccus, Roman
governor of Asia Minor, held in 59 bce.30 Since the trial reverberated
throughout the Jewish world, there is reason to believe that Herod
remembered it clearly and drew certain conclusions from it useful to
him at a later point. In our opinion, the reference in Ant. 14.378 to
the restoration of Rhodes as taking place in 40 bce is open to question since Herod lacked both the means and the experience at the
time. Since such a move would be more compatible with a later stage
in his career, our conjecture is that in 40 bce he merely conceived the
notion and outlined the initial plans for the rehabilitation of the city.
At most, he invested only a nominal sum to lay the cornerstone of the

reached Rhodes, but they rather could be Roodian businessmen whom Herod had met
previously in Ascalon.
See for example: Schalit, pp. 83ff.; Roller, pp. 2, 11, 34, 8687, 23234. Jones
(p. 42) believed that Herods financial resources came from monies donated by Jewish communities in Asia Minor, but there is no direct confirmation of this in the
See Levy, pp. 19ff. The proximity in time is highly significant here, since only
19 years had passed and the affair was presumably not yet forgotten. In excavations
conducted in Jerusalem, the archeologist Benjamin Mazar found a Greek inscription
dating from 17/18 bce that mentioned a certain donor from Rhodes with a Greek
name. If he was a Jew, then his donation should be understood no differently than
that of numerous other Diaspora Jews. But if he was not Jewish, he may well have
been a wealthy citizen of Rhodes who was sympathetic toward his Jewish neighbors as
a result of his close personal ties with Herod since his visit there; see Isaac, 14. The
date of the inscription indicates that the fundraising drive for the Jerusalem temple
was actually begun not long before its construction.


aryeh kasher

planned project and issued a statement of intention to complete the

undertaking in future, if and when he met with success in Rome. It is
our view that this is a more realistic possibility than assuming that the
restoration of Rhodes was launched as early as 40 bce.
After deepening his ties with Sappinas and Ptolemy, Herod sailed
with them to Brundisium (present-day Brindisi), from where they
continued together to Rome. His companions apparently traveled to
Rome to receive the imperial blessing for the rehabilitation project
and perhaps to raise funds for it as well. It should also be noted that
during this same period (October 40 bce), the Treaty of Brundisium
was concluded between Antony and Octavian (more below), ending
the animosity between them after they had both tied their fates to
the alliance known as the Second Triumvirate.31 It is entirely possible
that Herod first made the acquaintance of Octavian at this time, upon
the initiative of Antony, thereby paving the way for Herods success
in Rome. Indeed, it seems that from the moment he arrived in the
Roman capital, fortune smiled upon him. Understandably, he placed
his trust mainly in Mark Antony, whom he had known during his
fathers prime, when Antony had served in the Roman army under
Pompey. The meeting between the two is eloquently described by Josephus (Ant. 14.381382):
[381] This account made Antony commiserate the change that had happened in Herods condition; and reasoning with himself that this was a
common case among those that are placed in such great dignities, and
that they are liable to the mutations that come from fortune, he was very
ready to give him the assistance he desired, [382] and this because he
called to mind the friendship he had had with Antipater because Herod
offered him money to make him king, as he had formerly given it him
to make him tetrarch, and chiefly because of his hatred to Antigonus;
for he took him to be a seditious person, and an enemy to the Romans
(trans. by Whiston; cf. War 1.282).

It was Antony who influenced Octavian, his young ally in the Second
Triumvirate, to launch together with him an initiative to crown Herod
king of Judea amid the special political circumstances created by the
great Parthian invasion. As stated, under the auspices of the Parthian
invaders, Mattathias Antigonus had been declared king of Jerusalem.
This confluence of events sparked widespread support in Rome for


See Shatzman, 574576.

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crowning Herod king of Judea and enlisting him in the massive Roman
effort to roll back the Parthians and their followers. Indeed, the two
members of the Triumvirate won sweeping support for a senatorial
decision (senatus consultum) crowning Herod king of Judea. In the
words of Josephus (Ant. 14.386387):
[386] And this was the principal instance of Antonys affection for Herod,
that he not only procured him a kingdom which he did not expect (for
he did not come with an intention to ask the kingdom for himself, which
he did not suppose the Romans would grant him, who used to bestow
it on some of the royal family, [387] but intended to desire it for his
wifes brother, who was grandson by his father to Aristobulus, and to
Hyrcanus by his mother), but that he procured it for him so suddenly,
that he obtained what he did not expect, and departed out of Italy in so
few days as seven in all (trans. by Whiston).

Of course, one should not be misled by these words, which reflect

an apologetic argument aimed at Jewish public opinion. The fact
that there is no parallel reference in War, makes it difficult to determine the source of Josephus knowledge.32 In our estimation, this is
one of the instances when Josephus relied on internal Jewish information, which attributed to Herod underhanded and deceitful intentions
aimed at justifying his appointment as king in the eyes of his Jewish
subjects and blaming the Romans for the decision. Such a disingenuous claim was convenient for him since, after all, who would dare to
go against the will of a united and resolute Roman Empire.
Based on the way in which the information is presented, it appears
that Josephus himself doubted its credibility. Nevertheless, it must be
admitted that the account was cleverly based on half-truths, namely,
Antonys support for Herod, on the one hand, and the Roman practice
of preferring kings from a known, legitimate dynasty (as seen by their
subjects), on the other.33 The combination of half-truths and overt lies,
according to which it was Herod himself who supposedly asked the
Romans to appoint his young brother-in-law as king, is problematic
and lacking in credibility, since it is difficult to conceive of Herod acting
in such an altruistic manner.34 Herods appointment as king resulted
from circumstantial political factors, and should be interpreted simply as an expression of Roman anger and dissatisfaction with the fact

Perowne (p. 58) naively accepted this truth; compare below.

Ant. 14. 386, 403, 489, and see Kasher 2005, pp. 187, 19597, 20204, 206.
It is therefore amazing that Jones (p. 43) accepted this.


aryeh kasher

that the Jews had accepted the rule of Mattathias Antigonus, placed in
power by the Parthians who were major enemies of Rome at the time
(ibid., 404).35 Only in this way can one offer a convincing explanation
for Romes departure from its traditional practice of crowning a king
from a royal dynasty seen as suitable by its subjects.
Moreover, as stated explicitly by Josephus in both accounts (War
1.282; Ant. 14.382), Herod promised a bribe to Antony if and when
he was crowned king, just as he had done when appointed by him
to serve as tetrarch (Ant. 14.327).36 Herod acted similarly when Cassius promised to appoint him king of Judea after his victory in the
Roman civil war following the assassination of Julius Caesar (War,
I, 225; Ant. 14. 280). On that occasion as well, the deed was done at
Herods instigation and in exchange for a suitable payment. The preceding is sufficient to refute the false and sanctimonious claim that
his original intention had been to offer the kingship to the brother of
his betrothed, Aristobulus III. Every act of Herods throughout his life
was for his benefit alonesomething that is true of individuals whose
egocentrism is the product of paranoid personality disorder.
Herods legal and political status was initially defined in accordance
with Roman juridical criteria as rex socius et amicus populi Romani
(that is, an ally-king and friend of the Roman people), thereby obligating him to absolute political and military subjugation to Rome. He
was prohibited from engaging in any personal initiative whatsoever in
matters of security and state without the appropriate approval from
Rome, nor was he permitted to determine his own successor.37 Herods
loyalty to Rome naturally had to be proven through immediate enlistment in the war effort to expel the Parthian invader from imperial
territory. He took part willingly, as the endeavor fitted with his own
struggle to secure the kingship of Judea. The elimination of his rival
Mattathias Antigonus, who had ascended the throne with the help of
Parthian lances, was compatible with Roman efforts to push the Parthians across the Euphrates River. In other words, the commonality
On the different reasons that led the Romans to crown Herod, see Ben-Shalom,
pp. 28485.
Cf. War 1.244, although no bribe is mentioned in this version. The appointment
of Herod and Phasael as tetrarchs is mentioned for the first time by Josephus in Ant.
14.327. On the significance of this office see Marcus 1943, VII, p. 621, n. i.
On the legal and political obligations stemming from this status, see Schalit,
146ff.; Stern 1985, 59ff. 251 (nn. 9, 11, 14, 15); Braund, passim; Paltiel, passim.

josephus on herods spring


of interests between Herod and Rome rested on the Parthian threat;

as long as it loomed, there was no reason to believe that the Romans
would alter their policy toward him.38 Rome was not yet sufficiently
familiar with the social fabric of Jerusalem to be able to grasp the depth
of Jewish loyalty to the Hasmonean dynasty or the magnitude of the
hatred toward Herod. The Romans learned this only at a later stage,
when the physical elimination of the Hasmonean dynasty by Herod
was already a widely known fait accompli, not to mention a source of
derision in the eyes of the Emperor himself.39 Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the Romans never actually renounced Herod,
and only on one occasionlate in his reign, when he was suspected
of initiating his second war against the Nabateans without authorizationdid he receive a veiled warning that this forthcoming attitude
was liable to change; in practice, however, such a thing never took
place.40 On the contrary, it appears that Roman policy towards Herod
remained consistent throughout his life. It was the Hasmonean dynasty
that the Romans turned their backs on, apparently long before Herod
was appointed king, that is, early in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus
(10376 bce). This political turnaround took place in response to the
decision by the Hasmonean king to abandon the historical alliance
with Rome in favor of political ties with the Parthians.41 It is not surprising that, from this point forward, Hellenist and Roman literature
began to speak of the Hasmonean Dynasty in strident tones,42 indicating that the crowning of Herod in 40 bce had been well thought-out
politically. True, this policy was initiated by Antony and Octavian, but
public opinion in Rome was already ripe for such a move. As a consequence, the actual decision was made unanimously by the Roman

For the historical background, see Stern 1995, 249274. One should bear in mind
that the Parthian threat loomed over Rome at least until the days of Emperor Trajan
(114116 ce).
According to a later tradition, when Augustus learned of the execution of Antipater, Herods eldest son, he is said to have stated sarcastically: Better to be Herods
pig than his son; see Stern 1980, II, 66566 (no. 543).
As a matter of fact, he became involved in this war because of Syllaeus the Nabatean; a detailed discussion of this issue will be offered below.
See Rappaport 1969, 4354. According to Pucci-Ben Zeev 1981, 33138, there is
a reasonable basis for assuming that John Hyrcanus I was actually the first to initiate
this step.
For further details, see Kasher 1990, 133ff.


aryeh kasher

Senate; and what is important in our view is that it was not expected
to be modified.
Zvi Yavetz rightfully enumerated three principal reasons for crowning Herod as king: (a) a reward for his unqualified loyalty to Rome;
(b) the desire to bolster his political standing in Jerusalem since, as
an Idumean commoner, he could not serve as high priest; and (c) his
great prestige among the non-Jewish population in Palestine, who had
a mutually hostile relationship with the Jews.43
After attaining the crown, Herod sought to make the anniversary
of his coronation into an annual national holiday (Ant. 15.423).44 In
his great arrogance, he wanted his subjects to adapt themselves to
the new reality, undoubtedly echoing the accepted practice of most
of the Hellenist monarchs in the lands of the Near East. His coronation took place during the winter of 40 bce, as can be inferred from
War 1.279281 and Ant. 14.376380.45 The dating of the event is also
based on numismatic findings,46 moreover it fits chronologically with
the signing of the Treaty of Brundisium between Octavian and Antony
(October 40 bce), that is, shortly before Herod entered the gates of
Rome (in December).47
The decision by the Senate to crown Herod as king of Judea can be
seen as a crossing of the Rubicon in Roman policy towards the Jewish nation in Palestine, as this was the first public and explicit rebuffing
of the Hasmonean dynasty. The importance of Herods coronation was
reflected in its ceremonial aspects at the conclusion of the Senate session, Herod strode arm in arm with Antony and Octavian before the
consuls and other men of power, after which they ascended together
to the Capitol to offer a sacrifice to the god Jupiter and to deposit the
senatorial resolution in his temple.48 It seems that Herod had no religious compunctions regarding the ceremony, even if he himself did


Yavetz, 322.
At a later point, he even combined the anniversary of his coronation with the
dedication of the Jerusalem temple so as to make it a national festival; see in detail
Otto, cols. 2526; Marcus, VII, pp. 64849, n. a; Schalit, pp. 8388; Grant, p. 41;
Schrer, I, pp. 28182 (n. 3); Smallwood, pp. 5556; Roller, p. 12 (n. 8); Kokkinos,
pp. 36769.
Meyshan, pp. 100108.
Cf. Plutarch, Antony, 30; Yavetz, pp. 1920; Shatzman, pp. 57476; Kokkinos,
loc. cit.; Banowitz, p. 3.
War 1.285; Ant. 14.388389. Antony later held a banquet in honor of the event,
presumably attended by the cream of Roman society.

josephus on herods spring


not offer a sacrifice.49 It must be recalled that the city of Rome was
home to many Jews who resided not far from Capitol Hill, most of
them were freed slaves who had come there following Pompeys conquest (63 bce) of Hasmonean Palestine. It is unimaginable that Herod
would have taken the religious risk of offering a personal sacrifice to
Jupiter, since word of such an act would likely have reached Jerusalem
and sparked a major scandal and needless resentment. In Herods eyes,
the most significant point was the crowning itself since it represented
a political declaration by the ranking elite; moreover, its legal validity could not be questioned once the senatorial decision had been
deposited in the Capitoline temple. It is easy to speculate that he felt
great pride as an Idumaean rejected by Jewish society who had been
granted kingship over the Jewsand by the leading personalities of
the Roman world, no less. The apologetic excuse later uttered by him
that he had no choice but to obey the word of his Roman masters was
nothing more than an empty statement and a sanctimonious pretext
intended to forestall Jewish disapproval.
Despite being crowned king, and regardless of the solid Roman consensus in his favor, Herod remained consumed with fear that Roman
policy toward him might change. He was still convinced that his selection as king deviated from the traditional policy in countries under
direct or indirect Roman rule, by which members of known royal
dynasties, accepted by their subjects, were crowned king. Since this
pragmatic strategy was aimed at preventing internal upheaval (in the
form of riots and revolts), Herod was concerned that the Roman rulers might one day decide to return to this approach, particularly when
they became aware of the depth of Jewish hatred toward him. Such
fears never left him, and in certain situations he was seized by crippling
emotional distress. It would not be an overstatement to say that the
entire course of his life was shaped by ongoing existential anxiety coupled with constant stress in the face of unexpected changeschanges
whose future course was unpredictable, as were his own methods of
coping with them. In principle, these fears had no real, discernible
basis; but since they appeared so plausible to him, he perceived them
as highly threatening. Such a pattern is typical of an individual with
paranoid personality disorder, but this theme is dealt with at length in
Kasher and Witztum.


Cf. Grant, p. 50.


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Banowitz, Moshe. 2003. Herod and Hanukka. Zion 68:540. (Hebrew).

Ben-Shalom, Israel. 1993. The School of Shammai and the Zealots Struggle against
Rome. Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi Press. (Hebrew).
Braund, David C. 1984. Rome and the Friendly King: The Character of Client Kingship,
London: Croom Helm.
Dar, Shimon. 1993. The Estate of Ptolemy, Senior Minister of Herod. Pages 3850 in:
Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple, Mishnah and Talmud Period: Studies in
Honour of Shmuel Safrai. Edited by I. Gafni, A. Oppenheimer, M. Stern. Jerusalem:
Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi. (Hebrew).
Debevoise, Neilson C. 1968. A Political History of Parthia. New York: Greenwood
Press Publishers.
Dvorjetski, Estee. 2001. The Economy Activity and Special Agricultural Products of
Ashkelon from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine Periods. Pages 11934 in A City on
the Seashore. Edited by A. Sasson, Z. Safrai, N. Sagiv., Tel-Aviv, (Hebrew).
Flusser, David. 2002. Judaism of the Second Temple Period: Sages and Literature.
Edited by S. Ruzer. Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi & The Hebrew University Magnes
Press. (Hebrew).
Fuks, Gideon. 2001. A City of Many Seas: Ashkelon during the Hellenistic and Roman
Periods, Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi. (Hebrew).
Graetz, Heinrich. 1987. Geschichte der Juden von den ltesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart, Vol. I, Leipzig: O. Leiner.
Grant, Michael. 1971. Herod the Great, New York: America Heritage Press.; London:
Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Isaac, Benjamin. 1983. A Donation for Herods Temple in Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Journal 33: 8692 (= op. cit., 1985. Eretz-Israel 18: -4, Nahman Avigad Volume,
Jones, Arnold H. M. 1967. The Herodes of Judaea, Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1938 Reprint.
Josephus. 1943. Books VIIVIII Translated by R. Marcus. LCL. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
Kasher, Aryeh. 1990. Jews and the Hellenistic Cities in Eretz-Israel. Tbingen: J.C.B.
Mohr (Paul Siebeck).
. 2005: When a Slave Reigns: The Inferiority Feeling of King Herod and its Impacts
on his Life and Deeds. Pages 17924 in The Path of PeaceStudies in Honor of Israel
Friedman Ben-Shalom. Edited by M. Pucci-Ben Zeev and D. Gera. Beer-Sheba: BenGurion University of the Negev Press & Sapir College and Jerusalem: The Bialik
Institute. (Hebrew).
Kasher, Aryeh and Eliezer Witztum (Forthcoming 2007). King Herod: The Persecuted
Persecutor. Translated by Karen Gold. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter.
Klausner, Joseph. 1958. Ha-Historia Shel ha-Bayit ha-Sheni, Jerusalem: Ahiassaf.
Kokkinos, Nikkos. 1998. The Herodian Dynasty: Origins, Role in Society and Eclipse.
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Levi, Amichai. 1997. Rodfei Mishpat, ha-Hagshamah ha-Simlit: Mishpatim be-Paranoia, Jerusalem: Keter. (Hebrew).
Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott. 1968. A Greek-English Lexicon, Revised and
Augmented Throughout by Sir H. St. Jones, 9th edition, Oxford: Oxford University
Moore, George Foot. 1950. Judaism in the First Three Centuries of the Christian Era,
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932. Repr.
Meyshan, Joseph. 1960. Chronology of the Coins of the Herodian Dynasty. EretzIsrael 6:100108. (Hebrew).

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Otto, Walter. 1913. HerodesBeitrge zur Geschichte des letzten jdischen Knigshauses. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler.
Paltiel, Eliezer. 1991. Vassals and Rebels in the Roman Empire: Julio-Claudian Policies
in Judaea and the Kingdoms of the East. Collections Latomus 212. Brssel: Latomus.
Perowne, Stewart. 1957. The Life and Times of Herod the Great, London: Hodder &
Pucci-Ben Zeev, Miriam. 1981. An Unknown Source on a Possible Treaty Between
Hyrcanus I and the Parthians. Zion 46:331338 (Hebrew).
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des tudes Juives, CXXVII:247321.
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House (Hebrew).


Samuel S. Kottek

Josephus no doubt considered King Solomon to be a paragon of wisdom. The wisdom and sagacity of Solomon are indeed mentioned in
the Bible, however medicine is not included in the many branches
of knowledge that he mastered.1 For Josephus, however, healing was
apparently a necessary part of general wisdom:
There was no form of nature with which he (Solomon) was not acquainted,
or which he passed over without examining, but he studied them all
philosophically and revealed the most complete knowledge of their several properties. And the Lord granted him knowledge of the art used
against demons2 for the benefit and healing of men (Ant. 8.4445).

Josephus further affirms that King Solomon left magic devices and formulas for later generations: He also composed incantations by which
illnesses are relieved, and left behind forms of exorcisms with which
those possessed by demons drive them out, never to return. (Ant. 8.
45). There is no hint whatsoever in the Bible of the alleged magic powers of Solomon. It is however well known that early Jewish, Christian
(and later also Muslim) traditions contain such allegations.3 We shall
come back to Josephus description of magic cures later in this study.
Without considering here in detail Josephus biography, or rather,
autobiography, we would like to stress that he had been well trained in
his youth. His father Matthias (Heb. Matityahu) was indeed among
the most notable men in Jerusalem and Josephus education was no
doubt as excellent as could be achieved then and there.4

Cf. I Kings 5: 914 and esp. vv. 1011: And Solomons wisdom excelled the
wisdom of all the eastern peoples and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than
all men . . ..
Gr. kata ton daimonon technen.
Cf. note of Thackeray ad locum (LCL Edition, vol. V, 595 note g).
There are however in Life no details on the curriculum of his studies.


samuel s. kottek

He thus states: I won universal applause for my love of letters

(Life, 8).
Later, when he was writing his works in Rome, Josephus found a
benevolent patron in Epaphroditus, who owned a large library, which
he apparently could consult at leisure. His works Against Apion and
The Life were dedicated To you, Epaphroditus,5 who are a devoted
lover of truth. Josephus might well have found in that library some
works of Hippocrates, Celsus, Soranus, and possibly Dioscorides, who
was his contemporary.6
Theophrastus (370286 bce) and Pliny the Elder (2379 ce)the
latter having in his books XXXXVI widely used the formerhad
described medicinal plants. These works also could have been perused,
although this remains obviously conjectural. Regarding formulas of
poisonous drugs on one hand and of magic procedures on the other,
the works of Dioscorides and Pliny were probably the most productive; we shall endeavor to show some similarities.

In Scripture
Several Hebrew words are used for poison in the Bible, mostly in a
metaphorical context. Isaiah for instance exclaims: Awake, awake, O
Jerusalem, who has drunk the cup of poison,7 who has drunk to the
dregs the deep bowl of poison (Heb. kos ha-tarelah, Isa. 51: 17, 22).
And in the book of Job it says: Food in his bowels is turned (into) gall
of asps within him8 (Job, 20: 14).
It is remarkable that Josephus (as Philo had done before him) attributes to the Bible a very stringent attitude toward poisoning. He was
well aware of the relatively frequent incurrence of poisoning in Roman

Epaphroditus is named in the first and in the last sentence of Against Apion. We
remember that Life formed an appendix to the Antiquities.
Dioscorides was an army surgeon of Nero, and was active in Rome from 54 to
68 ce.
Heb. kos hamato, which may also be translated the cup of his anger. Heimah
means wrath, fury, and also venom.
The gall of asps (Heb. merorat petanim) features the venom of vipers. The Latin
aspis designed the viper, but also the Egyptian cobra (coluber haje). See also Job 20:
16 (Heb. epheh for viper).

josephus on poisoning and magic cures


society,9 and even the mere possession of poison would allegedly lead
to a death penalty: Poison, whether deadly or of those designed for
other injurious ends, let no Israelite possess. If one be caught with it
in his keeping, let him die, undergoing the fate that he would have
inflicted on the intended victims of the drug (Ant. 4. 279).
This has been considered as an interpretation of the biblical injunction: You will not suffer a witch (Heb. mekhashefah) to live (Ex. 22: 17).
Indeed, in the Septuagint mekhashefah is translated as pharmakous,
and it is well known that pharmakon is (also) poison. Philo certainly
used the Septuagint, however Josephus obviously knew Hebrew. Had
he perhaps been influenced by Philo? Let us have a look at Philos
account ad hoc: For there are others, the worst of villains, (. . .) the
sorcerers and poisoners,10 who (. . .) think out (. . .) devices to harm
their neighbors. And therefore he (Moses) ordered that poisoners,
male or female, should (. . .) perish as soon as they are detected (Spec.
3.9394). This is how poison and magic (our present topic) became
engaged together.
In King Herods Family
The court of King Herod was not less plagued with intrigues than the
court of Roman emperors. Herods wife Mariamne and their son Antipater were thus accused of having acquired poison in order to be freed
from Herods attacks. His sister Salome persuaded his cupbearer to
tell the king that Mariamne had enticed him to give the king a love
potion. The cupbearer said he knew nothing about the composition
of that potion, this was enough to arouse the suspicion of poisoning.
After a mock-trial, Mariamne was sentenced to death and executed.11
King Herod became, according to Josephus, subject to morbid fears
of being murdered by his own sons. The sons were moreover incensed
against each other. Antipater once said that Alexander had a poisonous drug prepared in Ascalon (Ant. 16. 253).12 But Herod was unable
to find the drug. It was later revealed that Antipater had prepared a
Cf. the female magician and poisoner Canidia (e.g. Horace, Epodes, 5Ode 5
Against Canidia. See Kaufman 1932; Horstmanshoff 1999. Physicians were often
involved as purveyors of poison.
Gr. oi magoi kai pharmakeutai. This is Philos rendering of pharmakous, in fact
this term may designate one who handles poison and also a magician or sorcerer.
See Ant. 15.7, 225. Herod allegedly later deeply regretted this barbarous ordeal.
See also War 1.485.


samuel s. kottek

fatal drug and had given it to Pheroras with instructions to give it to

his father (Ant. 17.69). And the drug had been brought from Egypt
(. . .) and had come to Pheroras wife, for her husband had given it to
her to keep. (. . .) The drug was brought from Egypt by Antiphilus,
having been furnished him by his brother, who is a physician,13 and
Theudion brought it to us. (Ant. 17.7073)
All these details were disclosed by Pheroras wife. She added that
her husband had asked her to burn the drug before my eyes, she left
however some of it in the vial, in order that if the king should treat
her badly, she might end her life with this and thus escape torture
(Ibid., 7576).
Sometime later, Batyllus, Antipaters freedman, came back from
Rome. He was put to torture and was found to have brought a drug
(. . .), in order that, if the first drug did not take effect on the king, they
might then do away with him by using this one (Ant. 17.79).
Herods brother Pheroras died, and after the funeral two of his
freedmen came to Herod and told him that Pheroras had supper with
his wife the day before he fell sick and that a certain potion was put
into some food, to which he was not accustomed.14
This drug, moreover, had been brought by a woman from Arabia, ostensibly to stimulate his erotic feelingit was called a love potion (Gr.
philtron)but in reality to kill him. Now the women in Arabia are the
most skilful of all in the use of drugs. (. . .) To persuade her to sell the
drug, both the mother and the sister of Pheroras wife had gone to that
region and had returned, bringing her along,15 on the day before the
dinner. (Ant. 17.6263).

It thus appears that, according to Josephus, such poisonous drugs could

be imported from Egypt, from Ascalon (with a physician involved),
from Arabia, or else from Rome. Women played a conspicuous role

Philo, while speaking on the use of snake venom in medicine, remarks that
Those who take up the medical profession with care and energy make use of venomous animals as an important factor in compounding their remedies (Providence
2.60). Indeed, venoms were used as major ingredients in the famous theriac (a compound that was a supposed cure-all) See also War 1.592600 where Josephus added
that this physician lived in Alexandria.
This detail will be discussed later on.
It is not quite clear why the woman had been brought along, not just the poison.

josephus on poisoning and magic cures


in these stories,16 and the fake presentation of poison as a love potion

is also to be stressed.
Regarding the formula of the poison, it appears only in one place.
(Batyllus) arrived with another noxious drug (Gr. asthenesei pharmakon) composed of the poison of asps and the secretions of other
reptiles17 (. . .), should the first poison fail to take effect (War 1.601).
I would like to add a comment to the case of Pheroras death. The
drug was allegedly put in a food to which he was not accustomed.
It could be that the freedman, or the servants noticed that Pheroras
felt uneasy while eating that dish. It was thought in ancient times that
poison gives to food into which it is mixed a bad taste, or bitterness,
or acidity, and/or a special smell.18 This question will obviously be left

Magic Cures
The Baaras Root
King Herod built a palace in Machaerus, a settlement situated at the
north-eastern end of the Dead Sea.19 While describing the site, Josephus gives evidence of his botanical interests: Within the palace once
grew a plant of rue (Gr. peganon) of an amazing size. Indeed, in height
and thickness no fig tree surpassed it (War 7.178). Theophrastus
mentions the fact that rue, classified as an under-shrub, sometimes
becomes tree-like.20 Josephus remarks that in his times the plant had
disappeared, for it had been cut down by the Jews who took possession of the place (War 7.179).


We remember the role of the female sorceress and poisoner Canidia, and there
are more such female figures mentioned in Horaces Odes. See note 9, above.
Pliny mentions the venom of asps, their bite is dangerous, but however much
(of it) is drunk, it is harmless, having no wasting power (Lat. tabifica vis). See Nat.
Hist. 29, 65. He also mentions snakes and hydri (water snakes).
See for instance the statement of Maimonides in his Book on Poisons, part II,
chap. 1 (in Rabbinowicz 1935, 49).
Machaerus, now called al-Mukawir, is situated some 20 km. southwest of Madaba, Jordan. According to Pliny, it was the strongest place in Judaea, after Jerusalem
(cf. Nat. Hist. 5, 17; 72).
See The Enquiry into Plants (Hort 1916, I, 3, 4).


samuel s. kottek

We come now to the Baaras plant, which grew in a valley to the

north of Machaerus, and had allegedly magic powers.21 Flamecolored and emitting a brilliant light towards evening, it eludes the
grasp of persons who approach with the intention of plucking it, as
it shrinks up and can only be made to stand still by pouring upon it
certain secretions of the human body (War 7.181).
Here the translator also shrunkfrom translating literally! For the
Greek text says quite clearly that these secretions were either urine,
or menstrual blood from women.22 Josephus then adds that touching
this root was fatal. Therefore the following stratagem was used. They
dig all round it (the plant), leaving but a minute portion of the root
covered. Then they tie a dog to it, and the animal rushing to follow
the person who tied him easily pulls it up, but instantly dies (War
Once plucked, the root becomes innocuous. It possesses, Josephus
states, one virtue for which it is prized: For the so-called demons, in
other words the spirits of wicked men which enter the living and kill
them unless aid is forthcoming,23 are promptly expelled by this root,
if merely applied to the patients (War 7.185).
Was the Baaras root mandrake? There is at least an analogy with
the way mandrake was plucked up, as documented in ancient times.
According to Theophrastus, people used to draw circles with a sword
around the plant and then cut it with their face turned toward the
west.24 Theophrastus considered the root to be effective against erysipelas, gout, sleeplessness, and in love potions. Pliny has nearly the
same, adding that the diggers avoid facing the wind.25 He also mentions that mandrake is effective as an antidote against snakebites and
to induce anesthesia. Dioscorides does not mention the digging, while
stressing its use as an aphrodisiac.26 We remember that the dudaim of
the Hebrew Bible (Gen. 30: 14) are usually translated mandrakes
According to Lw, the name Baaras could be related to the Hebrew boer, to
burn (cf. flame-coloredsee Die Flora der Juden, 1881, 188 n. 1).
Gr. ouron gunaikos e to emmenon haima . . . The same secretions were used,
according to Josephus, in order to discharge bitumen (pitch) from the ships of fishermen who caught it from the surface of the Dead Sea (cf. War 4.480). Josephus also
mentions that bitumen was used in a number of medical preparations.
This is a rather severe definition of possession by a demon, which deserves further reflection.
See Enquiry (cf. note 20, above) IX, 8,8 [Vol. II, 25961]. Not literally.
See Nat. Hist. XXV, 148 [Vol. VII, 24043].
See De Materia Medica, Book IV, 76, 57074.

josephus on poisoning and magic cures


with an alleged use against sterility, or possibly as an aphrodisiac. This

source is however beyond the scope of our present study.
The story of the Baaras plant and its lethal power on those who
pluck it up, had a lasting influence on medieval authors, as illustrated
in several herbals.27
There is in the Mishnah a brief reference to a so-called man of the
field (Heb. adonei ha-sadeh). It has the shape of a man and a long
string ties it from its navel to a root in the ground. It causes the death
of anyone approaching into its reach. If however the string is torn
from afar, it dies at once.28
King Solomon and the Demons
King Solomons outstanding wisdom is extolled in the Bible (I Kings
5: 914). It excelled the wisdom of all the children of the eastern
countries and all the wisdom of Egypt (v. 10). However healing is not
included in Solomons fields of expertise, although natural sciences are
mentioned.29 Josephus however considers him (also) as a magus expert
in occult sciences. And the Lord granted him knowledge of the art
used against demons for the benefit and healing of men. He also composed incantations30 by which illnesses are relieved, and left behind
forms of exorcisms with which those possessed by demons drive them
out,31 never to return (Ant. 8.45).

See for instance Platearius, Le livre des simples mdecines (15th cent.), B.N. Paris,
Ms. lat. 17848, fol. 20v. In La mdecine mdivale travers les mss. de la Bibliothque
Nationale (Paris 1982), 75.
See b. Kilayim 8, 5 and j. Kilayim 8, 4, and the commentary of Rabbi Samson
from Sens ad loc. However the roots of the mandrake are anthropomorphous, not the
stema remote kinship indeed!
And he spoke of trees (. . .), he spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping
things, and of fishes (1 Kgs, 5: 13).
Gr. epode, i.e. a spell, or enchantment. Indeed, these magic spells were either
recited, or sung, hence the term enchantment. On Solomon as a magus, see Alexander
1986, 34279, in particular 37679.
The translation should be emended here. We would suggest: (exorcisms) by
which they drive away demons so that they never return, as in Whiston. The latter
added a note where he stated that he disagreed with Josephus (!) and that such magic
cures were derived from Solomons heathen wives and concubines in his old agenot
imparted to him by the Lord.


samuel s. kottek

It should be remarked that in the book of Jubilees and in the book

of Enoch such magical means were forwarded to Noah by the (fallen)
angels, while for Josephus they were inspired by the Lord.32
Josephus describes in detail such a cure, which he allegedly witnessed, and has often been reproduced and discussed:
This kind of cure is of very great power among us to this day, for I have
seen a certain Eleazar, a countryman of mine, in the presence of Vespasian (. . .), free men possessed by demons. This was the manner of the
cure: He put to the nose of the possessed man a ring, which had under
its seal33 one of the roots prescribed by Solomon; and then, when the
man smelled it, drew out the demon through his nostrils. And when the
man at once fell down, (he) adjured the demon never to come back into
him, speaking Solomons name and reciting the incantations which he
had composed (Ant. 8.4647).

The Romans who attended the cure might well have been somewhat
skeptical, foraccording to JosephusEleazar wished to prove that
the demon had come out: Eleazar placed a cup (or foot-basin) full
of water a little way off and commanded the demon (. . .) to overturn
it. (. . .) And when this was done, the understanding and wisdom34 of
Solomon were clearly revealed (Ibid. 4849).
It has been conjectured that Eleazar might have been an Essene,35
for this sect possessed books of medicine attributed to Solomon.
Josephus himself writes elsewhere that the Essenes display an extraordinary interest in the writings of the ancients, singling out in particular those which make for the welfare of soul and body (War 2.136).
And he adds: With the help of these, and with a view to the treatment of diseases, they make investigations into medicinal roots and
the properties of stones (War 2.136.).
The Therapeutae described by Philo were also known for their
expertise in healing of body and soul, but without any actual reference


See Kottek 2000.

Solomons seal had a long story throughout the Middle Ages. Under the caption
Clavicula Salomonis, or The Key of Solomon it comprised all kinds of magic treatises. On the early manuscripts and prints, see
Gr. sunesis kai sophia. These terms thus associate sagacity and knowledge.
See note of Ralph Marcus ad locum (595, note h). The fact that they attributed
such books to Solomon remains indeed conjectural, although Lightfoot spoke of possible Solomonic origin.

josephus on poisoning and magic cures


to King Solomon.36 Moreover, neophytes who entered the sect (of the
Essenes) had to swear carefully to preserve the books of the sect and
the names of the angels (War 2.142). The reference to angels (having
in mind the books of Enoch and of Jubilees) and to stones (mainly
used as amulets and talismans)37 shows that magic cures were indeed
practiced by the Essenes.38
I wish now to come back to the alleged power of King Solomon over
demons, as featured in Jewish and Early Christian literature, more or
less contemporary to Josephus. This will however be limited to a brief
overview. There is in Matthew (12: 2237) a description of exorcism
of a demon.39 People exclaimed: Is not this the son of David? Other
bystanders thought that this was achieved with the help of Beelzebub,
the prince of devils. Now, if the son of David is Solomon (not the
Messiah!), his power over the prince of devils is stressed more in
depth in our second source: the Testament of Solomon. The Testament
of Solomon tells how Solomon sent Benaiah, who succeeded in capturing Asmodeus, using a ring on which the name of the Lord was
engraved. The ring had allegedly been handed over to Solomon by the
archangel Michael.40 Solomon thus gained power over a full host of
demons, which were expert in causing diseases.
The Book of Wisdom41 mentions that Solomon had the upper hand
over spirits (Gr. bias), as well as over all kinds of plants, and that he
knew the virtues of roots, and many more secrets (VII, 2123).
Last, but not least, the Book of Raziel begins with a historical introduction, where it is asserted that the included secrets were bestowed
to Noah by the angel Raziel. They were then transmitted to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kehat, Amram, Moses, Joshua, the Elders, the
Prophets, the Sages, and (then) to King Solomon.42


On the question whether Josephus used Philos works, Feldman 1984, 410418.
The classic work of Dioscorides contained a full chapter on stones (De Materia
Medica, ch. 5).
On this topic, see Kottek 1994, 16170.
See also Mark 3: 2230, and Luke 11: 1423. On this excursus of Matthew, Fischer 1968.
No root is mentioned in this source. See Magic and Healing . . . (cf. note 32,
above), p.11. The demons were allegedly forced to help build the Temple in Jerusalem.
Formerly better known under the title The Wisdom of Solomon.
Margalioth 1966, 6566. The Book of Raziel was first printed in Amsterdam in
1701. The time of its composition is still unclear, despite Margalioths opinion.


samuel s. kottek

Our question is: Did Josephus have access to anyone of these sources,
to which we could have added the books of Enoch and of Jubilees?
Unfortunately, we are unable to forward any documented answer, as
these Hellenistic Jewish (and Early Christian) writings cannot be dated
with exactitude.

We have shown how poisoners and magicians were associated in the
Greek version of Scripture, under the ambivalent term pharmakous.
Regarding poisoning, Josephus could arguably compare the deleterious
atmosphere that existed at Herods court to the intrigues and atrocities that infected Roman high society. He apparently relied mainly, as
regarded Herods environment, on the work of Nicholas of Damascus.43 The only detail of some interest is the provenance of the poisons,
namely Ascalon, Egypt, Rome and Arabia. We hear very little about
the composition of the drugs, and incidentally it seems that the venom
of asps and other reptiles would have been innocuous by ingestion.
Regarding magic cures, the scene of exorcism described by Josephus
is a fine literary piece, and the excursus on the Baaras root has given
rise to a long-lasting legend around the mandrake. It remains however
problematic whether the Baaras plant was mandrake, or not.
The most telling aspect of this study is, in my opinion, the alleged
mastership of King Solomon over the demons. It seems that Josephus
has initiated this legend.44 Josephus had in mind to extol the wisdom
of the Jewish monarch. His writings having been preserved owing to
the Church Fathers, it is remarkable that the Christian scholars were
responsible for the lasting success-story of the Seal of Solomon.
Legends have their own history, and Josephus may be seen (also) as
a historian of legendsor perhaps as a legendary historian.

Nicholas (born ca. 64 bce), knew Herod personally and even supported him. His
Historia Universalis comprised 144 books.
There might however have been a Jewish oral tradition, later included in the
Talmud. For we read the following statement (cf. b. Sanhedrin 20b): At the beginning (i.e., before he took wives of foreign origin), King Solomon had authority over the
upper powers (Heb. al ha-elyonim). This is exactly opposite to what Whiston wrote
(cf. note 31, above).

josephus on poisoning and magic cures


Alexander, Philip S. 1986. Incantations and Books on Magic. Pages 342379 in The
History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 bcce 135) (III, part 1).
Edited by Emil Schrer. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Colson, Francis Henry and George Herbert Whitaker. 19291942. Translation. Philo.
10 vols. + 2 suppl. New York: G.P. Putnams sons.
Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos. 1829. De Materia Medica. Edited by C. G. Khn
and K. Sprengel. Leipzig: Cnobloch.
Feldman, Louis H. 1984. Josephus and Modern Scholarship (19371980). Berlin/New
York: De Gruyter.
Fisch, Harold. 1986. The Holy Scriptures. English text revised and edited. Jerusalem:
Koren Publishers.
Fischer, L. R. 1968. Can this be the Son of David? Pages 8297 in Jesus and the HistorianWritten in Honor of E. C. Colwell. Edited by F. Thomas Trotter. Philadelphia:
Horstmanshoff, Herman F. J. 1999. Medicaments, Magic and Poison in the Roman
Empire. European Review 7.1: 3751.
Hort, Arthur Fenton. 1926. Translation. TheophrastusEnquiry into Plants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Kaufman, D. B. 1932. Poisons and Poisoning among the Romans. Classical Philology
27: 166ff.
Kottek, Samuel. 1994. Medicine and Hygiene in the Works of Flavius Josephus. Leiden/
New York/Kln: E. J. Brill.
. 2000. Magic and Healing in Hellenistic Jewish Writings. Frankfurter Judaistische
Beitrge 27: 216.
La mdecine mdivale travers les manuscrits de la Bibliothque Nationale. 1982.
Paris: Bibliothque Nationale.
Lw, Immanuel. 1967. Die Flora der Juden. 4 volumes. Hildesheim: G. Olms.
Margalioth, Mordecai. 1966. Sepher Ha-Razima newly recovered book of magic from
the Talmudic period. Jerusalem: Yediot Achronot (Hebrew). There is an English
translation by Michael A. Morgan: Sefer Ha-Razim, the Book of the Mysteries. 1983.
Chico, CA: Scholars Press.
Rabbinowicz, Israel Michel. 1935. Translation. MaimonideTrait des Poisons. Paris:
Librairie Lipschutz.
Rackham, Harris, Jones, William Henry Samuel and D. E. Eichholz. 19381962.
Translation. Pliny the ElderNatural History. 10 volumes. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
Thackery, Henry St John. 1976 (Reprint of 1926). Josephus. 9 volumes. (LCL), Camebridge: Harvard University Press.
West, David. 1997. HoraceThe Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Etienne Nodet

Josephus sloppiness is well known, as well as his biases. Many times,

however, when apparently no major political or ideological problem
is involved, his strange statements or inconsistencies can be explained
by his attempt to preserve all the data available to him. This paper
presents a sample of such cases, which may provide a glimpse into his
biblical sources or allow a reassessment of historical details.

Biblical Matters
Before examining specific cases, a general statement on the sources of
Josephus biblical paraphrase is appropriate, for it is generally taken
for granted that in spite of his unambiguous statements he rewrote a
previous Greek translation. On the contrary, a detailed study of the
Antiquities indicates that he used a peculiar Hebrew source. One may
add that besides the Pentateuch, the nature and authority of the Greek
Bible is difficult to assess.

On Josephus Bible
Josephus himself tells us that he has translated ()
from the Hebrew Scriptures (Ant. 1.5). The same claim is sometimes
made within the narrative, even more clearly. About Jonas, he feels
compelled to tell of the miracles as written in the Hebrew books
(9.208). Later he insists (10.218): In the beginning of this history,
I have said that I intended to do no more than translate (or paraphrase ) the Hebrew books into the Greek language . . .,
without adding to, or removing from, them anything of my own. In
Apion 1.54 he states: I have translated () the Archaeology from the holy books.
He does have many agreements with MT against LXX. For instance,
the members of Jacobs family who arrived with him in Egypt are 70


etienne nodet

according to Gen 46:27 MT, Jubilees 44:33 f. and Ant. 2.176, but 75 for
LXX, Ac 7.14 and a Qumran fragment.
As a shepherd, Moses comes to Horeb (Ex 3:1), and MT only adds
the mountain of God; so Josephus, who dwells at length on the topic
(Ant. 2.265).
In 1 Kgs 9:13 king Hiram names the cities which Solomon wanted
to give him land of Cabul () , and Ant. 8.142 has a transcription , while LXX reads land of boundary (from
), an error probably prompted by some geographical knowledge
about Galilee.
Josephus paraphrases the beginning of the Jonah story. He writes
(Ant. 9.208) for Nineveh unlike LXX (Jon 1:2).
In Jonah 1:9, Jonas replies I am a Hebrew, but LXX has
I am a servant of the Lord, reading
instead of . Ant. 9.211 has he said he was a Hebrew, like MT.
One may object that the great fish which swallowed Jonah (Jonah
2:1 ) is rendered with sea-monster by both LXX and
Ant. 9.213 (cf. Leviathan, Gen 1:21; Job 3:8), but that may simply be
the obvious interpretation.
Josephus agreement with MT against LXX may reflect a controversy
in legal matters; thus, both Lev 24:16 MT and Ant. 4.202 forbid the
cursing of Gods name (blasphemy), but LXX, Philo (Vita Mosis 2.205)
and 1 QS 6:27 condemn any utterance of the name (Tetragram).
Sometimes, Josephus interpretation of the text differs from the LXX
rendering. For instance, according to Gen 4:4, Abel brings an offering
of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat (, LXX
), but Ant. 1.54 has their milk, which the Hebrew
allows (homonyms); this idiosyncrasy of Josephus may have come
from his view that unlike Cain, Abel could not have performed any
violent deed, even a sacrifice to God.
In Ex 8:21, the fourth plague ( ) is normally understood swarms
of flies (so LXX and Symmachus dog-flies), but with
another vocalization either wild beasts of every sort and kind (from
a reading , so Ant. 8.21, Aquila and Theodotion) or ravens (from
) according to a tradition reported by Origen.
According to Ex 13:18, the Israelites left Egypt fully armed (
but LXX renders the fifth generation (cf. Gen 15:16), confusing a
rare word with the more common five, fifth people; Josephus, who
states that they were unarmed (Ant. 2.321), misunderstood in a different way.

josephus and discrepant sources


Sometimes, Josephus translates, while LXX is content with a transcription; for instance. At the end of the list of Solomons governors
(1 Kgs 4:19) there is one governor ( )in the land; LXX transcribes , , as if it were another proper name, but Ant. 8.37
correctly translates ruler, which can hardly be extracted from
the Greek form.
For many parts of the temple building, the technical words are often
difficult to understand, e.g. for the vestibule in front of the sanctuary (1 Kgs 6:3 ), LXX cautiously transcribes , but Ant. 8.65
rightly translates .
It is obvious however, that Josephus has many contacts with the various forms of the LXX against the MT. For instance, if the owner of an
ox has been warned of its being dangerous (in the habit of goring),
Ex 21:29 MT states that he must keep it under control (from ),
but LXX and Ant. 4.281 say in different words that he must slaughter
it (from a reading ). The discrepancy is very easy to explain in
Hebrew by a slight graphical difference /, but we cannot conclude
that Josephus did follow a Greek source. Moreover, it is difficult to
assess the original LXX wording, for Philo, Spec. leg. 3:145 holds that
the ox has to be kept in confinement, thus agreeing with MT against
LXX as we know it. A rabbinic saying (m.B. Qam. 4:9) combines the
two readings: The only good confinement is with a knife. These
agreements do not concern the wording, but the content of the narrative, which cannot preclude a common Hebrew source.1
In fact, many proper names, which involve no special interpretation, are spelled differently from the LXX forms, when they have not
been harmonized by Christian copyists. For instance, Noah is always
written as in LXX but in Ant. 1.129, where Josephus explains his

An interesting exception can be seen in Ant. 1.34, where the wording is almost
identical to the LXXs:
Ant. 1.34 ;
Gen 2:7 .
The construction and meaning differ slightly, but one may wonder why such a parallelism occurs only once. Now, in the prolog (Ant. 1.25), Josephus lays claim to philosophy, and states he is planning a treatise on Customs and Causes, a work he never
completed, most probably because he did not have the relevant skills. It has been
noticed by H. St. J. Thackeray in the introduction to his translation that in this prolog,
and in the Creation story which follows, he had before him Philos treatise De opificio
mundi, in which we can read:
134 .
The construction and meaning match Josephus wording, in spite of a minor change
of order.


etienne nodet

declension system for the Hebrew names he transcribes, his original

spelling has survived.
Zoar, a city close to Sodom (, Gen 19:22) is spelled ,
in LXX but in Ant. 1.204); Josephus does not render ,
as we can see for Reuel, son of Esau (, Gen 36:4, LXX ),
spelled in Ant. 2.4; the same way, queen Athalia (,
2 Kgs 11:13, LXX ) appears as (Ant. 9.140); and so in
many other places, when there is no well known Greek name (e.g.
Gaza, from , is consistently rendered ).
Gath, the Philistine city (, 1 Sam 5:9, LXX , ) becomes
in Ant. 6.8. The month Kislev (1 Mac 1:54 and 4:52 )
appears as or more accurately in Ant. 11.148 and
in Ant. 12.248 and 319. This feature, which occurs frequently, implies that Josephus did not check his wording against a
Greek Bible known to us.
Incidentally, some specific renderings indicate that Josephus did use
a Hebrew form of 1 Maccabees. For instance, 1 Macc 6:37 says that
every elephant was carrying a tower and thirty men of valor (from
) , which is simply impossible. Rahlfs conjectures a
Greek error for and corrects four, but Josephus offers a better
solution (Ant. 12.371), with archers and no figure: he read
as ( originally a team of three warriors, usually rendered by LXX ).
As a result of this brief survey, it is appropriate, when Josephus
paraphrase looks strange, to consider a possible problem with his
Hebrew Bible.

Variant Readings
Sometimes, an awkward statement can be explained by a slight alteration of a Hebrew source. Here are two examples.
According to Gen 4:24, Sevenfold will be avenged Cain, and Lamek
seventy and sevenfold, but Josephus states at this point (Ant. 1.63) that
Lamek had seventy-seven children by his two wives, but he does not
elaborate upon this impressive performance, unknown from ancient
sources. However, a prosaic textual explanation may be ventured from
the Hebrew:
The verse includes two difficult words which can lead to a very different meaning: , a rare
hofal form from , can be understood easily as the hifil of put

josephus and discrepant sources


up, beget; now if the of the rare is read because of a

slight rubbing, the sentence becomes Seven sons Cain will beget, and
Lamek seventy-seven, and we arrive at Josephus wording. Anyhow,
such a variant should be held as Josephus misreading, and can hardly
be authoritative.
In Ant. 7.346, when Adonias tries to be proclaimed king, the opponent party includes the best warriors, the high priest Zadok, the
prophet Nathan, Benaya and Shimei, Davids friend (). This
wording, which sets Shimei at the rank of Davids friend Hushai, is
very strange, for in the sequel David in his last speech to Solomon,
advises him to punish Shimei, who had badly cursed him during his
flight from Jerusalem. According to 1 Kings 1:8 MT, the opponents
are Zadoq, Benayah and Shimei and Rei and the mighty men (
). For and Rei, the LXX has a transcription , but
the Antiochian version (or Lucianic) translates Shimei and his fellows, these being the mighty. This version depends on a reading
, where the final of the first word is attached to the second.
Josephus saw neither version, but we can restore his Hebrew source:
it read after Shimei, hence the obvious meaning and Shimei his
fellow, which fits poorly in this context. Again, such a variant, which
may have come from rubbing, is hardly authoritative, but it shows that
Josephus follows faithfully a source, even at the price of some shortsightedness.

Josephus Merging of Variant Readings

Here are some instances where Josephus combines two variant
According to 1 Kgs 13:14 MT, the man of God is found sitting under
the terebinth (), but LXX has oak (from , of similar shape). In Ant. 8.238, Josephus says cautiously under a tree which
was thick with leaves and gave as much shade as a huge oak, instead
of a plain under a big oak. This lengthy description suggests that
he read in his source , together with or in a marginal gloss, hence the idea of a oak-like terebinth, which is a kind of
oxymoron. One could contend that Josephus saw LXX and strove to
combine both readings, but he does not mention the terebinth; moreover, in Ant. 1.342, the terebinth of Gen 35:4 becomes an oak,
from the same confusion between and : this is clearly a
misreading of the Hebrew, probably because of some corruption.


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According to Ex 22:10, if someone is entrusted by the owner of

an animal to keep it, and it dies or disappears, an oath by Yhwh will
decide between the owner and keeper, etc. Josephus adds details (Ant.
4.287): The depositary has to come before the seven judges and swear
by God that he is not guilty. The article indicates that the judges are
already known, but there is no tradition, biblical or other, about such
a rule, and one may wonder why a special institution has to be defined
for this very specific case, while Josephus never mentions any procedure for the others. In Josephus context they cannot be other than the
seven notables mentioned earlier (Ant. 4.214) to form the ruling body
of a city. But this looks somewhat artificial. A simple textual problem
may explain Josephus creation and remove any historical or legal concern. The oath by Yhwh is in MT, but
oath by God in LXX, from . Now the latter phrase can
also be understood seven gods or seven judges (homonyms), for
the interpretation of as judges is classical: for Ex 21:6 ,
LXX has Gods court, Syriac the court (see
too b.B. Mez. 84a); Philo, Spec. leg. 4:34 speaks of a divine court. Thus,
the simplest conjecture is that Josephus Hebrew source had
in the text and as a LXX-like gloss (or vice versa),
and in order to avoid discarding anything he simply read or understood seven judges, and connected this body with the one previously
If we join this case to the previous ones, we may conclude that
Josephus Hebrew source was a reference scroll, with some marginal
glosses; the many corruptions of similar letters suggest that it was
ancient and damaged by a frequent perusal. As for the origin of this
source, Josephus states that by the time of the final assault on Jerusalem, he received by Titus favor a gift of sacred books (Vita 418), but
the text is altered and the editors conjecture a lacuna at the very place
where the origin of these Hebrew books should have been indicated.
However, it may well have been an official copy from the temple reference library. Rabbinic tradition (Sif. Deut. 356) indicates that there
were three copies of the Law in this library; at some point, a revision
was performed, and a new eclectic text built up from them. This was
the editorial birth of MT, and R. Aqiba orders the use of new copies
only and the removal of older ones (b.Pes. 112a); m.Kel. 15:6 states that
the book of the Temple Court does not defile the hands, meaning
that it is unfit (like LXX) for public worship.

josephus and discrepant sources


The following case has some textual implications, but they are overshadowed by a controversy on significant ritual matters.
In Ant. 4.213, Josephus says that everyone has to put the phylacteries on his arms (pl.), but he goes on to state that these phylacteries
are to be put on the head and on the arm (sg.). This is not clear and
Josephus seems to be witnessing and mixing up two different customs,
as can be shown from the variants of Deut 6:8.
MT You shall bind
them as a sign on your arm and they shall be a frontlet between your
eyes. However, the second verb may have a consecutive meaning so
that they may be, all the more that the word is not quite clear,
as the LXX shows.
LXX . . . (var. -) (maybe
from ). . . as a sign on your arm (sing.), and they will be
unshaken in front of your eyes.
According to Philo, Spec. leg. 4:137139 nothing is to be put on the
forehead, and in Congr. 4546, he explains that the phylacteries move
with the hand (or hands); thus he read (-) mobile, like
the Vetus Latina mobilia. As for one arm or both, Philo says nothing,
but some technicalities may help: instead of on your arm the
Samaritan reads a dual on both arms. Again, a simple conjecture is that Josephus put together two readings, one of them being
a gloss, but this is not enough: he witnesses, albeit unwillingly, two
different ways of using the phylacteries.

Stages of Josephus Redactional Activity

We do not know how the ancient writers who composed large books,
such as Pliny the Elder, Dionysius of Halicarnassus or Josephus, collected and sorted out huge amounts of data, then wrote and emended
drafts. For the Antiquities, Josephus was able to divide his material
into two halves, with the exile in the middle, each half falling into ten
books or scrolls of similar length. This implies a preliminary sketch of
the content of the whole work. Besides this, the ancient librarians used
to put at the very beginning of a scroll a summary, in order to avoid
unrolling it to check its content.
Now, all the manuscripts of the Antiquities have a summary prefixed to each book, often with a text poorly preserved; the period


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covered by the book is given at the end of every summary. Thus, we may
ask whether these summaries reflect Josephus preliminary sketches or
the work of a later copyist. The conventional answer, stated by Thackeray in the Loeb edition, is that they were composed after Josephus.
Indeed, we read at the end of the summary of book 1: The book covers a period of 3,008 years according to Josephus, of 1872 according to
the Hebrews, of 3459 according to Eusebius. Obviously, the words in
italics cannot antedate Eusebius Chronicon, and the figures may be
corrupt, but we should not exclude that at least a portion of these summaries come from Josephus pen, since he displays a special interest
for chronology throughout his works.

The Summary of Antiquities 18

For a preliminary assessment of this question, we examine the case of
book 18, in which Josephus rewrites and enlarges his previous account
in the War. The narrative begins with the census of Quirinius in 6 ce,
i.e. the direct Roman rule of Judea, and runs until Caligulas death in
41 ce, with an appendix on the fate of the Babylonian Jews. The book
covers a period of 35 years not 32 as indicated in the summary (#28
below); the error may have come from a correction after the Chronicon, where Eusebius squeezed the sources in order to reconcile the
datings of Jesus birth given by Matthew and Luke.
In the following table, the summary of Ant. 18 is wholly translated,
with a new division and numbering of the topics, for the sake of clarity. It appears in two different typefaces: Roman for the items parallel
to War 2 (referenced in the left column), and italics for the additional
material given in Ant. Some topics dealt with in Ant. do not appear
in the summary; for convenience, detailed subtitles corresponding to
them have been added in the summary in bold, but they do not belong
to it.

War 2

Summary of Antiquities 18 (MS(S) AMW Lat)

Roman: parallel to War; Italics: new material;
Bold: added in Ant.

Ant. 18

1. How Quirinius (Cyrenios) was sent by

1, 2a, 2c
Caesar to make an assessment of Syria and Judea
and to liquidate the estate of Archelaus, after
Judea had changed from a kingdom to a
procuratorship ().

josephus and discrepant sources


War 2








Summary of Antiquities 18 (MS(S) AMW Lat)

Roman: parallel to War; Italics: new material;
Bold: added in Ant.
2. How Coponius, a man of equestrian rank,
was sent to be procurator () of Judea.
3. How Judas the Galilean and certain others
persuaded the masses not to register their
4. Many followed their advice, until Joazar the
High Priest induced them rather to give heed to
the Romans and to give an evaluation of their
5. What and how many were the philosophical
schools among the Jews and what rules they had.
6. How Herod and Philip the tetrarchs
founded cities in honor of Caesar.
7. How the Samaritans scattered bones of the
dead in the temple during a festival, and thus
defiled the people for seven days.
8. How Salom, the sister of Herod died
leaving Iamnia and its territory, together with
Phasaelis and Archelais, to Julia the wife of
Caesar (Augustus)
8a. Succession of procurators and high priests.
8b. Parthian events.
8c. Revolt in Commagene. Death of
9. How Pontius Pilate sought secretly to
introduce busts of Caesar into Jerusalem, but
the people, having heard of it, rose up against
him until he withdrew them from Jerusalem to
[Pilate builds an aquaduct using the money
of the temple.]
9a. Testimonium de Jesu.
9b. Paulina, Mundus and Isis priests in Rome.
10. What happened to the Jews in Rome about
this time.
11. (?) arising from the destruction of Samaria,
and how Pilate slew many.

Ant. 18




31a, 3235



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War 2




Summary of Antiquities 18 (MS(S) AMW Lat)

Roman: parallel to War; Italics: new material;
Bold: added in Ant.
12. Charges against Pilate brought by the
Samaritans before Vitellius.
13. How Vitellius compelled him to proceed
to Rome to render an account of his actions.
Tiberius dies before his arrival (15/3/37)
14. The ascent of Vitellius to Jerusalem and the
honour accorded him by the people. Passover
15. And how he thereupon permitted them to
keep under their own control the sacred robe
that lay in the Antonia (tower) in custody of the
16. The war of Herod (Antipas) the tetrarch
with Aretas the king of the Arabians and Herods
17. How Tiberius Caesar wrote to Vitelliusto
induce Artabanus the Parthian to send hostages
to himand make war on Aretas.
18. The death of Philip and how his tetrarchy
became provincial territory. (Lat. adds: de baptista
18a. John the Baptist.
18b. Vitellius and Herod in Jerusalem.
Tiberius death. Passover.
18c. Agrippa. Descendants of Herod the Great.
18d. Agrippas extravagance and banishment.
19. The voyage of Agrippa to Rome to
Tiberius Caesar.
20. And how, after being accused by his own
freedman, he was thrown into chains.
20a. Tiberius illness and possible successors.
20b. Tiberius death. Gaius (Caligula)
succeeds him.
21. How he was released by Gaius after the death
of Tiberius and became king of the
tetrarchy of Philip.
22. How Herod, upon making a trip to Rome,
and after being accused by Agrippa, was
banished (Lugdunum).

Ant. 18







josephus and discrepant sources


War 2

Summary of Antiquities 18 (MS(S) AMW Lat)

Roman: parallel to War; Italics: new material;
Bold: added in Ant.


23. And How Gaius presented his tetrarchy to

[Gaius orders to introduce his statue in
24. A strife of the Jews and Greeks in
Alexandria and the dispatch of delegates by both
camps to Gaius.
25. The charges brought against the Jews by
Apion and his fellow delegates on the score of
their permitting no image of Caesar.
25a. The Jewish delegation includes Philo of
26. How Gaius in his resentment sent
Petronius to Syria as governor, giving him orders
to collect a force and to open hostilities against
the Jews if they did not agree to accept an image
of him.
[Arrived at Ptolemais, Petronius renounces
and leaves.]
26a. Successful intervention of Agrippa
and reversal.
[Wrath and death of Gaius.]
27. The disaster that befell the Jews in Babylonia
because of the brothers Asinaeus and Anilaeus.
28. The book covers a period of thirty-two years.





Ant. 18





Preliminary Sketch or Summary?

The first comment to be made is that this summary is a bad table of
contents, for three sets of reasons:
1. Sometimes, the order of the titles does not match the narrative flow
of Ant. 18, as in #2, 4; 6, 17, 18, 19.
2. Several titles of the summary are not elaborated in Ant. 18. So the
titles #2, 4, 8, 14, 16 correspond to one or two verses only of Ant.


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18, which provide no further information. Conversely, some titles

correspond to large sections (e.g. #20, 27).
3. Moreover, the summary ignores many portions of Ant. 18, almost
one third of the book. In some cases, this means nothing, for the
topic has already been dealt with in War 2, e.g. the foundation of
Tiberias (#6) or the affair of Pilates aqueduct (#9). But the omissions include significant new stories, such as the succession of the
Roman procurators and of the high priests (#8a), or Herods genealogy (#18c). The same way, the well known notices on Jesus and
John the Baptist are not mentioned in the summary (see #9a and
18a as well as the addition of Lat. in #18), a strange fact if it was
composed by a later copyist, supposedly a Christian. About this,
one may object that in #7 of the summary of Ant. 1 Abraham is
mentioned as our forefather; this would imply a Jewish hand,
but if so we are getting very close to Josephus time, for during his
lifetime all his works were deposited in, and protected by, Roman
public libraries, as reported by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3:9).
Now if we hypothesize that this summary is not a table of contents
written after the book but a preliminary sketch, composed before its
final redaction, all the previous difficulties disappear. A comparison
of the summary with War 2 shows no discrepancy in the order of
the topics, but the previous narrative is interlarded with new pieces
of documentation (in italics). Besides some new stories of Jewish origin, in Judea (#7), Rome (#10), Egypt (#25), or Babylonia (#27), we
can notice that important documents from the Roman archives are
now available: a notice on Quirinius mission and a full-scale report of
governor Vitellius mission around Judea (#1118). We shall see that
the merging of this fresh information with the previous accounts was
not easy, as suggested by the alterations of the narrative order. We
may add that the story of Asinaeus and Anilaeus (Ant. 18.310379)
is somewhat lengthy, as if the material planned for insertion was too
short to fill up a book of fixed size.
As for the omissions of the summary, it suffices to suppose that after
having composed the general outline he found further data, casually or
not. It is not far-fetched to surmise that the process of composing such
a large work took many years. A fact hints at that: about the affair of
Caligulas statue, he paraphrases Philos Legatio (#25a) after presenting him as a prominent philosopher, but this is a new topic, ignored
in the summary. This suggests that he discovered Philos writings only

josephus and discrepant sources


lately in Rome, but he was able to use them, especially Opif. mundi,
when he wrote Ant. 1.

Discrepant Sources: Quirinius, Coponius, Judas

According to War 2.111, 117, Herods son Archelaus, tetrarch of Judea,
was banished to Gaul, and Judea became a Roman eparchy (praefectura). Coponius was sent as procurator, entrusted with full powers.
Then Judas of Galilee incited the Judeans to revolt, but nothing more
is said on any uprising. Much later, at the beginning of the revolt in
66 ce, one Menahem seized Masada (War 2.433434); he is introduced as son of Judas surnamed the Galilean, that redoubtable sophist who in old days, under Quirinius had incited the Judeans to revolt.
There is no problem to take son as a semitism to indicate a zealot
of the same party or tenets, but here Quirinius replaces Coponius,
without explanation. The same way, Eleazar, the head of the zealots
besieged in Masada (7374 ce), is introduced as a descendant of the
Judas who, as we have previously stated, induced the multitude of the
Jews to refuse enrollment, when Quirinius was sent as censor to Judea
(War 7.253). Again, Quirinius has replaced Coponius; a new piece of
information on Quirinius census has indeed surfaced, but Josephus
ignored it when he spoke of the banishment of Archelaus. This inconsistency may have come from some sloppiness, resulting in incomplete
editing of chapters already written. This may have been a result of
the publishing system: according to Life 365, every book of the War
was circulated immediately after completion, a method which leads
to inconsistencies when corrections are inserted. Incidentally we may
note that in the Slavonic version of the War (see III below) there is
no inconsistency: Menahems capture of Masada is not reported, and
when Eleazar is introduced there is no allusion to Quirinius census.
In the summary, both characters are mentioned without connection, and Judas revolt is not clearly directed against either of them. In
Ant. 18.12, both are sent together, but the wording is unclear: Coponius had full authority, and the census was made by Quirinius, who
came in Judea for this purpose; but the latter had been sent in Syria
to be judge (or governor) of the nation and to make an assessment
of their property. At the end of the previous book, Josephus said that
Quirinius had to take a census of all of Syria and to sell the estate
of Archelaus (Ant. 17.355). According to Ant. 18.26 Augustus had


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ordered a general census, of which the one assigned to Quirinius was

only a part; it was completed in 6 ce. But in the sequel, Quirinius is
the one who deposes the high priest Joazar; so he is acting as a procurator, for we learn that a later procurator had the authority to remove
no less than four high priests in a short period (Ant. 18.3435). As for
Coponius procuratorship, no act has been attributed to him when he
leaves Judea (31). By joining him to Quirinus, Josephus has simply
put together the two independent bits of information he had. As a
consequence, he had to extend the reign of Archelaus to ten years
(Ant. 17.342), to fill up the period between Herods death and the
completion of the census. But in order to give some content to Coponius tenure, we may imagine that he was dispatched with full powers
in Judea before Quirinius mission, or in other words that there was a
certain period, maybe some years, between the banishment of Archelaus and the census together with the confiscation of his estate. War
2.111 gives nine years for Archelaus reign. This figure is better, but we
can go further: according to War 2.2637 and 8092 Archelaus came
twice to Rome before Augustus for trial, within one year after Herods
death. The first one focused on Herods inheritance, for his last will
was unclear, but Augustus did not make a ruling. For the second one,
the Judeans request that Archelaus be removed, for he was as cruel
as his father, and that Judea be united with Syria under Roman rule.
Then Augustus decision was to divide the kingdom among Herods
children, which looks like the conclusion of the first trial; the second
one leaves the request without answer, unless we attach to it Archelaus banishment, mentioned much later. Thus, there is some confusion in Josephus sources: a second trial did occur, but for some reason
it appears as a kind of doublet of the first one; a possible cause is that
the first request for a Romanization of Judea was voiced quickly after
Herods death (War 2.80).
As for the high priest Joazar son of Boethus, Josephus did not know
of him in Jewish War 2 and Antiquities 17. Here, the summary introduces him as a peacemaker, who was able to reduce the revolt of Judas
the Galilean (#4), a fact ignored in War 2; more precisely he induces the
people to accept Quirinius census. In the final account, we learn more:
appointed by Herod (Ant. 17.164), Joazar was deposed by Archelaus at
the request of pious people (17.207, 339). In Ant. 18.3 Josephus seems
to agree with the summary, but immediately after Joazars successful
defense of the census, Judas the Galilean launches his rebellion. Josephus has pieced together his previous narrative and the summary.

josephus and discrepant sources


Later on (18.26), Quirinius removed him from office because he was

overpowered by a popular faction. Again, the sources are confused,
with two removals of the same high priest without a new appointment in between. But the circumstances are parallel: in Ant. 17, he
is overpowered by pious people; in Ant. 18, by zealots led by Judas.
This twofold narrative can be connected with a recognized doublet: the revolt of Judas in Galilee, immediately after Herods death
(War 2.56), and the uprising led by Judas the Galilean after the removal
of Archelaus (2.111), perhaps not very distant in time, are the same
event, recounted in two different ways.
In sum, Josephus has added to his previous documentation, presented in War 2, the content of some Roman archives. The latter should
be preferred for accuracy: Archelaus banishment after a short tenure,
Coponius, and then Quirinius census completed in 6 ce, Judas uprising, and only one removal of Joazar.

Discrepant Sources: Vitellius and the Removal of Pilate

According to the summary, the whole report on governor Vitellius
(#1117) is not connected with Tiberius death. Seen from Rome, it
makes sense, for the major problem was to maintain a Roman limes
preventing the eastern nations, and especially the Parthians, from any
access to the Mediterranean see (mare nostrum). Thus Herod Antipas
defeat by Aretas, the Nabatean king of Petra, was much more than a
local issue, for it was essential that Herodian Judea (including Galilee
and Philips tetrarchy) remain under Roman control, all the more so
that the Jews were always suspected of having Babylonian or Parthian
connections. At any rate, nothing is said of the campaign of Vitellius
against Aretas.
In fact, it did not occur, because of Tiberius death. Josephus learned
of it later from different sources. The first one involves Pilates removal.
Because of some charges against Pilate, Vitellius removed him from
his office, replaced him with one Marcellus and sent him to Tiberius in
Rome. Pilate hurried to Italy, but before he arrived Tiberius died (on
March 15th or 16th, 37). After saying this (Ant. 18.8990), Josephus
reports that Vitellius came from Antioch to Jerusalem by the time of
Passover, made important decisions favorable to the Jews, removed
the high priest Caiaphas and went home; such a trip is conceivable if
Pilate is absent and Tiberius had not yet officially appointed Marcellus


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to the position of procurator. In the sequel (96105), Josephus mentions Tiberius letter to Vitellius (see #17), bidding him to establish
friendship with the Parthians. According to Tacitus detailed reports
of this mission (Annales 6:31), it should be dated in 35 ce. Then, after
a loose transition, Josephus reports on Philips death, in the 20th year
of Tiberius reign, i.e. in 34 ce (106108). His tetrarchy was taken
by Tiberius and annexed to the province of Syria. Vitellius cannot
have been mentioned, for he was consul in 34 ce, and arrived only in
35 ce. Here, Josephus slight chronological mistake indicates that he
used a different source. Later we learn that Vitellius prepared a war
against Aretas requested by another letter of Tiberius (120).
The succession of these events could have been quite smooth, but
would have been impossible if Tiberius actually died before Pilate
reached Rome. This conclusion implies that he was removed in the
beginning of 37 ce, i.e. well after Vitellius first visit in Jerusalem; but
he came without Pilate, who had all the necessary powers. So Pilate
had left Judea much earlier, before this visit. In fact, the information
on Pilates late arrival in Rome seems to be spurious. It is quite possible that Josephus source about this detail was nothing more than a
kind of unwarranted saying intended to explain Pilates disappearance
from further Roman records. In fact, Tiberius had left Rome since
26 ce for various places in southern Italy, and died in Misenium; moreover, there is no ground to admit that the death of Tiberius would
cancel a suit on criminal charges. Later Christian tradition held that
he became a missionary in Gaul. A natural conclusion is that Pilates
removal should be dated in 35 ce, a short time after Vitellius arrival
in Antioch. The usual dating of 36 ce takes at face value Vitellius two
visits in Jerusalem at Passover, but the data can hardly be reconciled.
Indeed, on his way toward Petra, Vitellius came to Jerusalem with
Herod Antipas during a major Jewish festival, but on the fourth day
he received the news of Tiberius death, which stopped the campaign.
The unnamed festival was obviously Passover, which took place on the
week of March 1925 that year; so the news arrived on March 22. In
other words, Vitellius would have come twice in Jerusalem for Passover, but Josephus avoided saying this, as if he suspected a problem. In
fact, Vitellius first visit to Jerusalem entails something nearly impossible, the removal of a high priest during Passover, but the details given,
probably of local interest only, indicate a Jewish source. In fact, the
steps he took did not necessitate his presence in Jerusalem. It may be

josephus and discrepant sources


enough to understand that he came to the capital of JudeaCaesarea,

maybe for an inspection of Pilates removal, but in the Jewish tradition the capital became Jerusalem, which in turn attracted a memory
that he did come in 37 ce for Passover, during a campaign of major
Roman interest.
At any rate, we may conclude that Josephus here strove to respect
all his sources, wherever he found them (Philips tetrarchy and Vitellius favorable attitude in Judea, from the perspective of Rome and
Jerusalem; Pilates disappearance), but the result is a difficult narrative,
from which clear facts and dates are difficult to extract, even with the
help of Roman historians.

A Glance into the Slavonic Version of the War

The Slavonic version of the War is controversial but interesting. Its
Vorlage was in Greek, and there is some reason to surmise that it
reflects the first translation by Josephus of his Aramaic War, before
hiring educated assistants to improve the Greekand insert further
material. It is sufficient to say here first that Bishop Photius of Constantinople stated (Library, n. 238) that Josephus spoke of the massacre of the innocents of Bethlehem, a story found in this version
onlyand unconnected to Jesus (attached to War 1.400); and second,
that all the numerous Greek books later translated into Slavonic were
sent from Constantinople, the starting point of the Christian mission
in ancient Russia.
Here is one example of a story given quite differently in the two versions. As for the summaries of the Antiquities, we may ask whether the
shorter version (Slavonic) is a rsum of the other (Greek), or a kind
of draft, before the insertion of further material.

War 2


While (Caesar) was thus contemplating,

they brought a letter from Varus, governor
of Syria, saying: The Jews are rising to
war, not wishing to be under the power
of the Romans. So make your plans.

Greek (usual)
(39) Before Caesar had come to
a decision on this matter, the
mother of Archelaus, Malthak,
died, and Varus sent from Syria
letters on the revolt of the Jews.


etienne nodet

War 2


And when Caesar confided this task to


Greek (usual)
(40) Varus had foreseen this
outbreak. After the departure of
Archelaus (for Rome), he had
gone up to Jerusalem . . . and had
left in the city a legion . . . then
he had returned to Antioch.
(4154) (Sabinus, procurator of
Syria, is in Jerusalem [ 1619];
he wants to seize the Temple
treasure, whence a revolt; he
hopes for help from Varus.)
(5565) (Insurrections put
down. Sabinus is not
(6674) (Varus finally arrives in

Varus took a legion and marched against

those guilty of rebellion. He fought with
many (troops). Many, among the Romans
and among the Jews, perished.
Then the Jews surrendered.
He only had to show his troops
to disperse the camp of the Jews.
As for Sabinus, not being
able to bear the thought of
presenting himself to Varus, he
has previously left the city for
the coast.
and undertook to hand over the guilty.
(75) Varus allocated part of the
army in the countryside to catch
the authors of the insurrection,
Varus sent to have them brought in.
many of whom were brought
The oldest of them he shut up in prison; in. He imprisoned those who
he crucified 2000 of the younger.
seemed the less ardent; the most
culpable, in number about two
thousand, he crucified.

The Slavonic account, whose length is less than a tenth that of the
Greek, is simple and clear. Varus, the governor of Syria, puts down
a rebellion against Rome and punishes the guilty. In the Greek, the
origin of the rebellion is Sabinus, who according to two preceding passages (War 2.1618 and 23), is in collusion with Antipas against Archelaus to seize the treasury, an act which Varus had explicitly forbidden

josephus and discrepant sources


him. This gives rise to a Jewish rebellion, which he did not bring under
control, until the arrival of Varus whose presence alone restored order.
But Sabinus disappeared. As a matter of fact, the Judeans are in no way
revolting against Rome, since they demand the eviction of Archelaus;
as seen above.
The Greek account is long and complex, but the Slavonic is not
a summary of it: as a matter of fact, its logic is very different, since
Sabinus does not appear in it. We can understand then that either the
Slavonic has systematically suppressed Sabinus in a series of disconnected passages, without leaving any incoherence, or that the Greek
has introduced in three separate locations a new documentation on
the plot of Sabinus by adding it to the repression by Varus (the 2,000
crucified of the Slavonic). If we are content with these considerations,
it can be admitted that this second possibility is more plausible, since
in the opposite case it would be necessary to assume on the part of
the Slavonic translator a systematic intention to reduce and transform
this particular account in a drastic way, whereas he does nothing like
this elsewhere: the politico-military accounts are most often intact in
the Slavonic, and sometimes even embellished with more picturesque

Hansack, E. 1999. Die altrussische Version des Jdischen Krieges . Untersuchung zur
Integration der Namen. Heidelberg: Universittsverlag C. Winter.
Magie, D. 1950. Roman Rule in Asia Minor: To the End of the Third Century after
Christ. Princeton: University Press.
Nodet, E. 1997. Josephus and the Pentateuch, JSJ 28: 154194.
. 19902005. Les Antiquits juives de Flavius Josphe. Paris: Cerf. Introductions.
Schrer, E. 19731986. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, ed.
by G. Vermes et al. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Schwartz, D. R. 1990. Agrippa I, The Last King of Judaea. TSAJ 23. Tbingen: J. C. B.
Thackeray, H. St. J. 2000. Josphe, lhomme et lhistorien. Paris: d. du Cerf. Adapted
from the English original (Josephus, The Man and Historian, 1929) by E. Nodet,
with an Appendix on the Slavonic version of The War of the Jews.


Eyal Regev

The Great Revolt began at the temple in 66 ce, when the daily sacrifices on behalf of the emperor were suspended, and ended at the
temple, when the zealots were besieged at the temple as the Romans
burnt it. This fact is merely a matter of coincidence. Reading the Jewish
War shows that not only was the temple the central topos of the Jewish
revolt against Rome, but also the major bone of contention between
the Jews themselves during the war.
This paper discusses the ideology of the temple among the Zealots
and their opponents (henceforth: the anti-Zealots). It aims to show
that each side regarded the temple as the main cause of the civil war
against the other side. I will begin with Josephus often repeated claim
that the Zealots polluted the temple and then examine his justification for the destruction of the temple. Following the examination of
Josephus own discourse, I will turn to the question of its historical
validity in light of current postmodern historical theories. In order to
re-evaluate the historical context and integrity of Josephus views, I
will correlate his discourse with the actual place of the temple in the
acts and aspirations of the Zealots and their opponents.
Ever since Martin Hengels monograph The Zealots and Martin
Goodmans book The Ruling Class in Judaea,1 scholarship on Josephus
has seemed to somewhat neglect the political and religious ideologies
Hengel 1989; Goodman 1987. For the actual historical events and the question of
Josephus accuracy in War, see Price 1992. I am well aware of the fact that the different Zealot movements differed in their ideological approaches to the temple and their
involvement in the cult. Thus, for example, Elazar ben Hanania was the strategos of the
temple and the son of a former high priest, and Elazar son of Somon and Zachariah
son of Avikilus were priests (see Stern 1989, 28791). However, I will not distinguish
between the different factions of Zealots and Sicarii since the discussion of the differences between their attitudes towards and involvement in the temple cult requires a
separate study. I follow Hengel (1989, 65 and passim) in using the term in its broadest
sense. I should also remind the reader that from the polemical perspective of their
opponents, including Josephus all the Zealots were probably quite the same.


eyal regev

behind the Great Revolt in general and the Zealot movement in particular. Scholars now tend to be more critical concerning Josephus
discourse of the Jewish War,2 and are also more occupied with literary
and rhetorical concerns, such as reading Josephus in light of GrecoRoman historical conventions.3 Nevertheless, I think that it is still necessary to understand why the Zealots rebelled, and even more so, why
the Jews fought so bitterly with each other during the revolt.

Polluting the Temple

In fifteen places throughout his Jewish War Josephus accuses the
Zealots of polluting the temple or of sacrilege. Within these fifteen
cases, he blames them three times for being responsible for impurity
in general. He calls the rebels those who are polluting the Sanctuary (War 2.423);4 He argues that the Zealots trampled the temple
(War 4.262); and in his famous speech to the Zealots in book 5, he
declares this spot (namely, the temple) which you have polluted
(War 5.380).
Josephus also accuses the Zealots of the ritual defilement of the
temple. He says that on Passover, John of Gischalas men, most of
whom were ritually defiled (anagnoi), entered the temple hiding their
swords (War 5.100). Interestingly, Josephus mentions that the antiZealot party was much more scrupulous. The high priest Annaus son
of Annaus decided not to attack the Zealots in the temple, because,
among other things, his troops were without previous purification
(m progneukos), and must have been purified before entering it
(War 4.204205). The warfare of the Zealots also caused the defilement
of the sanctuary with blood and corpse impurity. The Zealots who were
wounded in the clashes in the city climbed up to the temple, staining
the sacred pavement with their blood, hence their blood defiled the
sanctuary (War 4.201). The war between the different Zealot fractions
interfered with the worship of the common and innocent people who


Cohen 1979; Schwartz 1990.

Mader 2000; Landau 2006; Mason 2009.
All translations follow Thackeray in the Loeb Classical Library edition.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


were allowed to enter the temple, and some even died near the altar
(War 5.1518).5
Most important, I believe, are the accusations concerning the moral
impurity of the Zealots and consequently the moral pollution of the
temple. In this case sins defile either ritually or symbolically/metaphorically. In his speech, the high priest Jesus son of Gamliel condemns the
Zealots for polluting the hallowed ground with their impiety, being
intoxicated in the sanctuary, and expending the spoils of their slaughtered victims upon their insatiable bellies (War 4.241242). A bit earlier in Josephus narrative, Gurion and Simon son of Gamliel assemble
the people and urge them to purge the sanctuary of its bloodstained
polluters (War 4.159). Later on, Titus ordered Josephus to call Simon
son of Giora and tell him to depart from the temple and fight the
Romans outside without involving the city and the sanctuary . . .
and he should no longer pollute the holy place nor sin against God
(War 6.95). On another occasion, in Titus speech, the Roman general
asks: Why do you defile the temple with the blood of foreigner and
native? (War 6.126); . . . it is not I who force you to pollute these
precincts (Ibid. 127). Titus also promised to protect the temple that
no Roman would enter and desecrate it (Ibid. 128).
Several times in his own speech in book 5, Josephus relates to the
defilement of the temple by the Zealots, and it seems that the nature
of the impurity he discusses is mainly moral. Josephus cries: this spot
(namely, the temple) which you have polluted (War 5.380); the spot
which you have stained with blood of your countrymen (War 5.381).
He then compares Titus siege to the one by Pompey in 63 bce and
argues that the temple fell to Pompey, even though those besieged
there were innocent of such offences as yours against the sanctuary
and against the laws. (Ibid. 397). Josephus continues with harsh condemnations regarding the Zealots crimes: the temple has become the
receptacle [namely, of moral sins: thefts, treacheries, adulteries and
murder, listed above]; native hands have polluted those divine precincts, which even Romans reverenced from afar, forgoing many customs of their own in deference of your law. Josephus then concludes

For the war at the temple between the camps of Eleazar son of Simon and John,
see also War 5.2126. Compare also the latter clashes between Eleazar and John in
War 5.101105.


eyal regev

with an ironic rhetorical question: and after those sins you still expect
that God will be your ally? (Ibid. 402).6
Three times Josephus accuses the Zealots besieged in the temple
mount of plundering sacred goods. According to Josephus, Eleazar
son of Simons stronghold was the inner court of the temple, where he
kept weapons in this holy place. His people used consecrated articles,
since they regarded nothing as impious (War 5.78). John of Gishcala also misappropriated the sacred timber (designated by Agrippa II
to underpin the sanctuary) for the construction of engines of war
(War 5.36; cf. Ibid. 39). John plundered the sacred in an additional
manner, when he melted holy vessels and gave his soldiers the sacred
wine and oil designated for the daily sacrifices (War 5.562565).7 These
three cases of sacrilege are presented as moral transgressions against
the temple cult.
Before considering the rhetorical and historical implications of Josephus portrayal of the Zealots as desecrating the temple, it is necessary
to take note of the notion of the temples defilement in the Jewish and
Greek religions as well as in Josephus own usage of the language of
pure-and-impure. Accusations of defiling the temple are quite common in Second temple literature, especially in the Dead Sea Scrolls8
and the Pseudepigrapha.9 The crime of sacrilege and the need to purify
the temple from such sins are also common in ancient Greek religion.10
Josephus non-Jewish readers therefore could sympathize with his
condemnations of the pollution of the sacred. Nevertheless, nowhere
in Jewish writings are the accusations of defiling the temple as frequent as in Josephus Jewish War. Nowhere is it presented in such
varied forms of ritual and moral terms.
Moreover, the noun katharos (clean, pure) occurs twenty-five times
in War11 (for the sake of comparison, in the New Testament it also
occurs the same number of times).12 The noun miasma and the adjective miaros are also relatively common in War. Related nouns and

For the manner in which Josephus expressed his own views in the speeches of
Annaus, Titus and himself in War, see Linder 1972, 2148; Michel (1984, 961, 96574)
who traces priestly ideology in these speeches.
The Zealots, on the other hand, argued that they should make use of the divine
things on behalf of the divinity (War 5.564). Cf. Price 1992, 15153.
Regev 2003, 257261.
Jub. 23:21; 30:1517; T. Levi 14:515:1; Ps. Sol. 8:1112.
Parker 1983, 6466, 94, 125, 14490.
Rengstorf 19731983, 2.399.
Kittel 1968, 3.423426.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


adjectives such as hagnos, bdeluttomia, and agos also occur several

times.13 This fact leads to the conclusion that although War is a political-historical treatise, and not a legal or halakhic one (as opposed to
portions of Antiquities or Against Apion) it also dealt with ritual and
religious concepts. One should also bear in mind Josephus countless
usage of the nouns eiron and naos in War (although many of them
are topographical terms related to the temple). In fact, the Josephus
presents the temple as a major theme in War in his introduction
(War 1.26). The descriptions of the temple, and its destruction (and
the political and military processes that led to this disastrous event) are
the climax points of his narrative.14

Josephus Theology of Destruction

The moral condemnation of the Zealots and the sicarii is of course
very common in War.15 But the persistent claim that their sins pollute the sacred is more far-reaching than mere polemics against political opponents. Josephus not only tries to persuade the reader that the
Zealots are immoral and wicked. He makes a point concerning the
dreadful fate of the temple as a consequence of their immorality.
Several times throughout his Jewish War, Josephus puts the responsibility for the destruction of the temple on the Zealots and their
impious acts. Thus, for example he implies that the Zealots will be
responsible for the burning of the temple (War 5.416418). In the following assertions of what can be called Josephus theology of destruction, he pretends to know how God reacted to the Zealots pollution
of the temple. In the very beginning of the revolt, when Cestius Galus
failed to capture Jerusalem in 66 ce, Josephus forecasts the later dire
implications of this event for the temple. He professes that God has

Miasma (stain, pollution, uncleanness, outrage, sacrilege, fault): War 2.455, 473;
6.48, 110; miaros (unclean-wicked, horrible, outrageous): War 1.506, 622, 624, 635;
5. 560; 6.124, 347; 7.267, 368; hagnos (purity, indicates the fitness of worship): War
3.374; 6.425; bdeluros/bdeluttomai (to be disgusted by, loathe): War 6.172; agos (sacrilege) War 4.163; nages (accused, laden with guilt): War 2.472. See Rengstorf 197383,
1.1011, 318; 2.94; 3.112.
Chapman 2005, 293303.
See their bloodshed in War 4.317, 325326; 4.381385. See also War 4.150, where
the Zealots immorality derives from causing for collisions between the different official authorities. For the Zealots transgression of the laws of the Torah, see Hengel
1989, 18485.


eyal regev

turned away from His sanctuary (War 2.539). Later on, in another
crucial step towards the completion of the so-called coup dtat in
Jerusalem, after the death of the high priests Annaus son of Annaus
and Jesus son of Gamliel, the historian explains that God desired to
purge the sanctuary by fire, due to its pollutions (War 4.323). A bit
later he mentions a mysterious prophecy that the sanctuary will be
burnt to the ground by right of war whensoever it should be visited
by sedition and native hands should be the first to defile Gods sacred
precincts (War 4.388). This prophecy is fulfilled when he states that
the Romans entered to purge with fire the internal pollution (of the
city) (War 5.19).
The divine justification for the destruction is fully expressed when
the historian claims that the city was no longer Gods place and
could not survive after becoming a sepulcher for the bodies of thine
own children and converting the sanctuary into a charnel-house of
civil war (War 5.19). Later he continues to portray the departure of
the divine spirit in familiar terms from Ezekiel 10: the Deity has fled
from the holy places and taken His stand on the side of the Romans
(War 5.412).

The Challenge of Postmodern Historical Theory

Josephus presents a very consistent ideology in which the Zealots polluted the temple in every possible manner and caused God to desert it, leaving it to destruction. This is one of his major theological
arguments in his Jewish War, weaved into the narrative of the civil
war and the Roman siege. But here one should certainly ask whether
Josephus arguments actually reflect the history of the Great Revolt or
merely represent his own political bias as a Flavian protg, justifying
his defection to the Roman side.16 Did the anti-Zealot party actually
claim that the Zealots were polluting the temple during the revolt? Did
the Zealots really defile the temple and plunder the sacred goods? Did
Annaus the high priest and his followers infer that the transgressions
of the Zealots, and not the Roman policy, cause the destruction of the
Some may think that these are quite nave questions considering Josephus bad reputation as a highly biased historian, who took

For Josephus and the Flavians, see Rajak 1983, 185222.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


an active part in the revolt, crossing the lines from the rebels to the
Romans, and later writing the Jewish War under Flavian supervision.
Others are still baffled whether Josephus views represent his original
position during the War. Indeed, since Josephus is the initial source
on the Great Revolt, the task of evaluating the validity of his assertions
should be taken seriously.17 Determining the authenticity of Josephus
own evaluation of the events is a difficult task. Although many dealt
with this problem from different angles, it seems that previous discussions lack an explicit and lucid methodological discussion of what the
expectations of the modern historian from the historical narrative are,
and what tools enable the scholar to ascertain the credibility of the
ancient source.
Post-Modern historical theory, as well as the reactions to it by
traditional historians, is concerned with the problem of historical
authenticity and credibility, rephrasing old questions in a new guise.
Applying this debate to the study of Josephus demonstrates that the
problem of Josephus credibility is not an isolated instance of a political bias by a problematic historian, but rather a general difficulty which
is fundamental to any historical research. Coping with the problem of
the historical validity of Josephus discourse may therefore draw certain insights from the historical theory.
In recent years serious doubts have been raised concerning our
actual ability to learn about the past. The rise of the so-called Postmodern history challenges current historical scholarship and forces us
to rethink the endeavor of the historian. Post-modern critique of traditional historical theoretical methods argues that even if past events
are ontological facts (and this point is actually disputed by many),
their study is by no means empirical. We cannot directly approach the
past. The historian works with sources which are narrative accounts,
not with facts.18 Theorists of Post-modern history therefore reduce
history from objective facts to narrative discourse, claiming that it is
socially constructed (just like literature, language and any other cultural phenomenon).
Post-modern history is influenced by Jaques Derridas literary of
deconstructionism. The meaning of deconstructing is to make manifest

On War as Flavian propaganda, see Weber 1973; Cotton and Eck 2005. For a
relatively positive appreciation of Josephus reliability in War see Rajak 1983, esp.
106107, 127, 138, 14142; Price 1992, 18093. For a bibliographic survey, see Bilde
1988, 191200.
McLennan 1984, esp. 14142.


eyal regev

the hidden meanings which continue to lurk within the silences and
absences that the text attempts, in vain, to impose. In deconstruction,
writing absorbs the social context into a textuality that is wholly alienated from the real. Or, using Derridas own famous words: il ny a pas
de hors-texte, there is nothing outside the text.19
This approach shaped the historical thinking of historical theorists
like Kellner, who argues that one should look in ways which reveal
the problematics that have shaped the strategies of the historical story,
however hidden or disguised they may be. He calls for paying attention to the sources rhetorical language, and understanding how the
straightness of any story is a rhetorical invention, i.e., the straightness
and coherence of any historical story lie not in the events of the past
but in an aesthetic, narrative form.20
Hayden White, perhaps the most notable among these theorists,
asserts that no given set of casually recorded historical events can
itself constitute a story; the most it might offer to the historians are
story elements. The events are made into a story by the suppression
or subordination of certain of them and the highlighting of others, by
characterization, motif repetition, variation of tone and point of view,
alternative descriptive strategies, and the like, as in the emplotment
of a story or a play.21 He also stresses the subjectivity of the interpretation given by the historian viewing it as the projection, on the cognitive, aesthetic, and moral (or ideological) levels of conceptualization
of the various tropes authorizing prefigurations of the phenomenal
field in natural language in general.22
It is hard to deny that the subjectivity of both the sources and their
interpreters complicates the quest for historical truth. One should also
admit the postmodern premise that there is no independent standard
for determining which of many rival interpretations of a given event is
true.23 Scholars of Josephus, however, are already familiar with the distinction between the bare facts and the historical narrative framework
which Josephus constructs, and some might even argue that in certain
cases Josephus re-created the facts according to this framework.24 If


Spivak 1976, 158.

Kellner 1997. See also Berkhofer 1997.
White 1978, 84.
White 1978, 74. For the problem of objectivity and multitude interpretations,
see the bibliography in Collins 2005.
Cf. Stanly Fishs assertion cited in Collins 2005, 150.
Cohen 1979, 100.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


this is the case, it seems that historical narrative (and ancient history
in general) can hardly be regarded as reflecting an actual history of
events, independent of historiography and historical biases. All that
is left is Josephus own discourse, with no possibility to discern or
reconstruct historical truth.
This approach, however, is contested by several scholars, whose
views are particularly relevant to the present discussion of Josephus
discourse on the temples pollution and destruction. As Martha Spiegel responded in her criticism of Post-modern historical theory, this
is an absorption of literature and history (or society), text and context,
without any access to reality: if we want to contextualize texts, we
cannot achieve this merely by textualizing the context. New Historicism, like cultural history, appears to gloss over the problem of the
text-context relationship by the adoption of semiotic mode of analysis
which occludes the issue altogether by treating culture, institutions,
ideology, and power as merely interworked sets of symbolic systems
or codes.25 The vocation of the historian therefore cannot be fully
textualized or reduced into a narrative.26 Arnaldo Momigliano has
added a somewhat old-fashioned argument to the debate: What has
come to distinguish historical writing from any other type of literature
is its being submitted as a whole to the control of evidence.27 Nevertheless, the use of evidence for reconstructing history, however, now
becomes a much more complicated task, and is not always successful.
But it is much more interesting and beneficial than studying ancient
texts merely as literature.28

Contextualizing Josephus Discourse: The Zealots

Capture of the Temple
In what follows I would like to test Spiegels methodological comment
about the necessary relationship between text and context, attempting
to rehabilitate the authenticity and credibility of a certain aspect of

Spiegel 1997, 192.

Spiegel 1997, 19598. See also Fox-Genovese 1997, 85.
Momigliano 1984, 51. For views which are critical towards the descent into
discourse, that is, the dependence of historical writings on language in which speech
constitutes reality, arguing for qualified objectivity, see Collins 2005, 29. For Richard
Rortys Nonfoundationalism (truth is not real, but derived from the quest for coherence and shared beliefs) and its critics, see the survey in Collins 2005, 13739.
Himmelfarb 1997, 173.


eyal regev

Josephus discourse regarding the debate over the temple during the
revolt. I suggest reading Josephus discourse on the Zealots pollution
of the temple and its dire consequences against their context in Josephus own historical narratives of events. I believe that this may provide criteria for examining the validity of Josephus main argument.
In attempting to contextualize Josephus discourse I wish to deconstruct his narrative in a way that joins different parts of his discourse,
trying to reveal aspects which Josephus actually tries to conceal.
I think that the key for this contextualization is the Zealots initial interest in the temple. Their interest and acts in relation to the
temple and the sacrificial cult may have been perceived by the antiZealots, Josephus included, as illegitimate, immoral and defiling. The
very first act of the Zealots, led by Eleazar son of Ananias, was a step
which officially opened the revolt, was the cessation of pagan sacrifices
in general and the sacrifices on behalf of the emperor in particular
(War 2.409421). This symbolic act recapitulated the Zealots interest
in cultic reform directed towards both the Romans and the traditional
high priesthood and aristocracy in order to remove the danger of pagan
desecration of the temple. However, the cessation of these sacrifices is
also closely related to their ideology of religious and national freedom.29
When the Zealots completed the take-over of the temple in 68
bce, they took upon themselves the election of the high priesthood,
appointing by use of lots ignoble and low born individuals, who were
not of traditional honorable priestly descent.30 Josephus gives a hint
concerning the Zealot temple ideology when he mentions the Idumaeans aim to protect the house of God (War 4.281). Lastly, as opposed
to his claim that God deserted the temple due to the sins of the Zealots, he mentions the Zealots assurance that the temple will not fall to
the Romans since God dwells in it (War 5.458459).
I also suspect that the fact that the main scenes of the early revolt
took place at the temple Mount is not a matter of coincidence. In
the first clashes with the pro-Roman party and the Roman troops, the
For the cult of the ruler and the complete identification of the king with the
state, see Hengel 1989, 100107. For the danger of gentile desecration, see ibid. 209.
Josephus attributes the ideology of freedom to the Forth Philosophy (ibid. 90127),
but, as Hengel implied, it was characteristic to the Zealots in general.
War 4.147157. The other priests wept when they saw the degradation of the
holy office (ibid. 157). The Zealots burnt Ananias house (2.426; cf. 2.441), and killed
Annaus and Jesus son of Gamliel (War 4.314318, 322, 325). These assassinations may
have been a systematic attempt to terminate the competing priestly regime. For the
sake of comparison, the Zealots did not kill all the aristocrats. Cf. Price 1992, 9394.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


rebels gathered at the temple mount (War 2.422423). During the feast
of wood-carrying there was a conflict between the rebels and the peace
party at the temple (War 2.425). Menahem the Sicarii was attacked
in the temple by other rebels (War 2.444445). After defeating Cestius Gallus, the aristocratic coalition that took over the revolt (headed
by Annaus son of Annaus, and later defeated by the Zealots) gathered there and appointed generals, probably also releasing the temple
Mount from the Zealots grip after the Zealots stopped the sacrifices
on behalf of the emperor (War 2.562).31 After the coup dtat of 68 ce,
the Zealots were concentrated in the temple Mount.32 Josephus states
that the temple became the rebels fortress, the headquarters of their
Tyranny (War 4.151).33 Thus, for example, at a certain stage during
their reign, the Zealots nominated a court of seventy lay judges at the
temple (War 4.36).
Gathering all these pieces of information scattered throughout the
Jewish War, it now seems that the main aim of the Zealots in the
years 6670 was to control the temple. Control not only in the military
sense, but especially ruling the cult, ceasing the sacrifices on behalf of
the Roman emperor, and nominating a high priest not affiliated with
the families nominated by the Romans.
But, according to Josephus own discourse, the control of the temple was also the main concern of the anti-Zealot party. In his speech
on the eve of the revolt, Agrippa II warns that a revolt will lead to
the destruction of the temple (Josephus emphasizes his claim that the
temple is more important to the Jews than their wives and children)
(War 2.400401). In Annaus speech, the main theme is his call to save
the temple from the hands of the Zealots. Annuas refers to their defilement of the sanctuary and contrasted their behavior with the Romans
respect and votive donations to the Jewish cult.
According to Annaus, the Romans donated to the temple votive
offerings and never overstepped the limits of the permitted area fixed
in the temple, or violated the temple rules, but from afar beheld with
awe the walls of the sanctuary. However, Annuas adds, the Zealots,

Price 1992, 5657. Price (ibid. 57) noted that there is no indication in BJ that the
revolutionaries ever relinquished control of the temple Mount before the temple meeting, but the aristocratic leaders of the new government had free access until 67/8.
E.g. War 3.196, 198; 4.272, 305, 570. According to Price 1992, 57, when the Zealots broke away from the coalition, they did not need to capture the temple Mount but
merely used their base at the temple and did not let their opponents to enter it.
Here he refers to the appointment of the high priest by lot.


eyal regev

our fellow Jews, perambulated in the temple with hands stained with
the blood of their countrymen (War 4.181182). Annaus speech,
encompassing War 162192, stresses the anti-Zealot temple ideology. Annaus major aim is to urge the adherents of the peace party
to act against the Zealots, demonstrated by his call: Will you wait
for the Romans to succor our holy places? (War 4.173). He mourns
the abominations committed in the temple, since its unapproachable
and hallowed places are crowded with murderers.34 The central role
of the temple in this speech is also stressed by its context: indignation towards the Zealots occupation of the Sanctuary, and by Josephus
portrayal of Annaus as gazing on the temple during his speech (Ibid.
162). Josephus also adds that Annaus was speaking as a high priest
(Ibid. 164). Annuas seals his speech declaring that he is willing to die
for the sake of God and the Sanctuary (War 4.191).
In his own speech, Josephus introduces the history of the temple in
order to show that God saved his people only when they were committed to divine fate without resort to hand or weapon, hence the future
of the temple is dependent not on Jewish warfare, but commitment to
God.35 He argues that the Romans will not destroy the temple since
they revered even the holies of the enemies and restrained their hands
from them (War 5.363). Elsewhere, Titus repeatedly blames the Zealots for bringing destruction upon the temple.36 Titus also emphasizes
that the Romans acknowledged the sovereignty of the temple cult
(War 6.335336). Towards the end of his Jewish War, Josephus continues to stress that foreign kings paid respect to the Jewish temple
through donations.37
All these long speeches that Josephus puts in the mouths of his heroes
aim to show that the anti-Zealot party is concerned with the temple
as much as the Zealots, and that anyone who wishes to continue the
sacrificial cult should refrain from revolting against the Romans.

War 4.163; cf. ibid. 171, 172, 181.

According to Josephus, God in his wonders destroyed the enemies of this holy
place (War 5.377); Abraham lifted his pure hands towards it (ibid. 380); Nechos, king
of Egypt, felt awe towards it (ibid. 381). Josephus also mentions the story of the loss
of the Holy Ark to the Philistines and its triumphant return, emphasizing expiations
propitiating the sanctuary (ibid. 385386), the destruction of the first temple (ibid.
391) and the desolation of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (ibid. 394).
War 6.328, 346, 348, 349.
War 7.4445. For the Roman approach to the temples destruction, including the
question whether it was purposely or accidentally burnt by the Romans, see Barnes
2005; Rives 2005.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


Consequently, I suggest that the accusations regarding the pollution of the temple should be evaluated in light of the struggle over the
temple and the opposing attitudes about the question of whether the
Roman patronage of the Jewish cult is an abomination or an unavoidable (although harmless) burden.
Now I think it is clearer why Josephus put so much stress on these
accusations and explained that the destruction of the temple was the
result. Given the context of the inner Jewish struggle concerning the
temple and the opposing agendas of accepting and rejecting the Roman
patronage of the temple cult, I suggest that Josephus repeated claim
was actually the anti-Zealot response to the Zealots cultic revolution.
I therefore follow Hengels assertion that Josephus is actually responding to the Zealots argument that the high priesthood and the peace
party are responsible for the desecration of the temple due to Roman
intervention. Hengel sensed the role of the temple in the Zealots ideology, although he paid much less attention to this theme in comparison to his detailed discussion of the ideas of zeal and freedom.38
Following the contextualization of the accusations against the Zealots
in the general framework of the struggle over the temple in Josephus
reports of events and (probably imaginary) speeches, it is possible to
determine with more confidence the connection between these different parts of Josephus discourse. In Josephus eyes, the temple was
the main bone of contention in the civil war of 6668 ce. Although
he tries to silence the Zealots ideology of the temple, his concealed
polemic with this ideology is found throughout War. I suggest that as
much as Josephus stresses the immorality and impurity of the Zealots,
the Zealots actually acted in the name of the very same values, declaring that Romanization equals desecration. It is also possible that the
specific types of impurity which Josephus ascribed to the Zealots
ritual, moral, and plundering the sacredwere already attributed to
the anti-Zealot party by the Zealots themselves.
In this paper I tried to read Josephus discourse on the temple during the Great Revolt in order to discover his aims, and to reconstruct
portions of the Zealot and anti-Zealot ideology. My use of postmodern

Hengel 1989, 18586, 218. Cf. his general discussion, ibid. 20624. Rhoads (1976,
16670) noted Josephus reverse polemics, when Josephus turned the accusations
of the revolutionaries against themselves. For the inference that the Zealots aimed
to purify the temple cult from Roman intervention, see ibid. 99100, 107 (following
Gnther Baumbach).


eyal regev

historical theory and the reactions to it by traditional historians was

mostly illustrative. My main methodological point is that even a very
biased historical source can provide historical knowledge if one is willing to read it in light of its own context.
However, an important historical question still remains unaddressed:
Why did the Zealots believe that the virtual Roman intervention in the
temple cult was abominable? Why did they regard the Roman rule and
the Romanization of Judea as offensive and threatening? Perhaps a
study of the interrelationship between cult and Romanization, as well
as a comparative study of revolts in the Roman Empire may throw
light on this matter.39 But that, of course, is the subject of a different

Barnes, Timothy D. 2005. The Sack of the temple in Josephus and Tacitus. Pages
12944 in Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives (eds.), Flavius Josephus & Flavian Rome, New York: Oxford University Press.
Berkhofer, Robert. 1997 (first published in 1988). The Challenge of Poetics to (Normal) Historical Practice. Pages 13955 in The Postmodern History Reader. Edited by
Keith Jenkins. London and New York: Routledge.
Bilde, Per. 1988. Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome. JSPSup 2. Sheffield:
JSOT Press.
Chapman, Honora H. 2005. Spectacle in Josephus Jewish War. Pages 289313 in
Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives (eds.), Flavius Josephus &
Flavian Rome, New York: Oxford University Press.
Cohen, Shaye J. D. 1979. Josephus in Galilee and Rome. His Vita and Development as
a Historian. Leiden: Brill.
Collins, John J. 2005. The Bible After Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age.
Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans.
Cotton, Hannah M. and Eck Werner 2005. Josephus Roman Audience: Josephus
and the Roman Elites. Pages 3752 in Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and
James Rives (eds.), Flavius Josephus & Flavian Rome, New York: Oxford University
Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. 1997. Literary Criticism and the Politics of the New Historicism. Pages 8488 in The Postmodern History Reader. Edited by Keith Jenkins.
London and New York: Routledge [originally Pages 21324 in The New Historicism.
Edited by Harold A. Veeser. New York: Routledge].
Goodman, Martin D. 1987. The Ruling Class of Judaea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hengel, Martin. 1989. The Zealots. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

For several similar revolts against Rome involving cultic resistance, see Regev
2006, 3334.

josephus, the temple, and the jewish war


Himmelfarb, Gertrude. 1997 (first published in 1992). Telling it as You Like It: Postmodernist History and the Flight from Fact. Pages 15874 in The Postmodern History Reader. Edited by Keith Jenkins. London and New York: Routledge.
Kellner, Hans. 1997 (first published in 1989). Language and Historical Representation.
Pages 12738 in The Postmodern History Reader. Edited by Keith Jenkins. London
and New York: Routledge.
Landau, Tamar. 2006. Out-Heroding Herod: Josephus, Rhetoric, and Herod Narratives.
AJEC 63. Leiden: Brill.
Lindner, Helgo. 1972. Die Geschichtauffassung des Flavius Josephus im Bellum Judaicum. AGAJU 13. Leiden: Brill.
Mader, Gottfried. 2000. Josephus and the Politics of Historiography: Apologetic and
Impression Management in the Bellum Judaicum. Leiden: Brill.
Mason, Steve. 2009. The Essenes of Josephus Judean War: From Story to History.
Pages 375408 in his Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers.
McLennan, Gregor. 1984. History and Theory. Literature and History 10.2:139164.
Michel, Otto. 1984. Die Rettung Israels und die Rolle Roms nach den Reden im Bellum Judaicum. Analysen und Perspektiven. ANRW II 21.2:945976.
Momigliano, Arnaldo. 1984. The Rhetoric of History and the History of Rhetoric: On
Hyden Whites Tropes. Pages 4959 in Stimmo Contributo alla Storia degli Studi
Classici e del Mondo Antico. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
Parker, Robert. 1983. Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion.
Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Price, Jonathan J. 1992. Jerusalem under Siege: The Collapse of the Jewish State 6670
ce Leiden: Brill.
Rajak, Tessa. 1983. Josephus: The Historian and his Society. London and Philadelphia:
Regev, Eyal. 2003. Abominated temple and A Holy Community: The Formation of the
concepts of Purity and Impurity in Qumran. DSD 10.2:243278.
2006. Temple or Messiah: On the Trial of Jesus, the temple and the Roman
Policy. Cathedra 119 (2006): 1336 (Hebrew).
Rengstorf, Karl H. (ed.). 19731983. Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus.
Leiden: Brill.
Rhoads, David Michael. 1976. Israel in Revolution 674 ce. Philadelphia: Forteress.
Rives, James 2005. Flavian Religious Policy and the Destruction of the Jerusalem temple. Pages 14566 in Jonathan Edmondson, Steve Mason, and James Rives (eds.),
Flavius Josephus & Flavian Rome, New York: Oxford University Press.
Schwartz, Seth. 1990. Josephus and Judaean Politics. Leiden: Brill.
Spiegel, Gabrielle M. 1997 (first published in 1990). History, Historicism and the
Social Logic of the Text in the Middle Ages. Pages 180203 in The Postmodern History Reader. Edited by Keith Jenkins. London and New York: Routledge.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1976. Translation. Derrida, JacquesOf Grammatology.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Stern, Menahem. 1989. The Zealots. Pages 27799 in his Studies in Jewish History: The
Second temple Period. Edited by Moshe Amit, Isaiah Gafni and Moshe David Herr.
Jerusalem: Yad Izhak ben Zvi (Hebrew).
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (III). 1968. Edited and compiled by Gerhard Kittel. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Weber, Wilhelm. 1973 (reprint of 1921). Josephus und Vespasian. Hildesheim and
New York: Georg Olms Verlag.
White, Hayden. 1978. Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore and
London: Johns Hopkins University Press.


Samuel Rocca

Various passages from Josephuss Life can be helpful in achieving
a better understanding of the role of the synagogue in late Second
Temple period Judaea as the main public building in Jewish cities,
towns and villages, as well as a place of prayer. Josephus refers to the
synagogue of Tiberias as proseuche. This proseuche served as the main
setting for the assembly of the boul, or city council of Tiberias. This
building, probably the main synagogue of Tiberias, is described as a
very large building1, seat of the boul, or city council,2 and in which
deliberations were held on Sabbath morning,3 and service and prayers
were held4 thus fulfilling the traditional role of the synagogue as a
house of prayer and Torah reading. Josephus further describes this
building as the site of various assemblies held in Tiberias at the beginning of the Great War in 66 ce.5
The monumental Tiberias synagogue appears to have served as the
main public building during the week, housing various magistrates,
the boul, and, probably, the local beth din or court of law, while on
the Sabbath functioning again as city council as well as a synagogue.
Using various sources, a hypothetical reconstruction of this building
may be possible. I would like to suggest that the main synagogue of
Tiberias was a basilical structure similar to the contemporary synagogue of Alexandria, which is described in talmudic sources and
mentioned by Philo. These buildings were probably inspired by the

See Josephus, Life 277. Josephus calls it megiston oikema, a huge building, and
then he adds that the building is capable of accommodating a large crowd.
See Life 279.
See Life 278279.
See Life 294295.
See Life 280284.


samuel rocca

Herodian Royal Stoa on the southern side of the Temple Mount. Thus,
the synagogue of Tiberias, which fulfilled religious as well as civic and
juridical functions, was modeled after the Roman basilica and played
a similar role.
Not only big cities but also towns and villages in Second Temple
period Judea had a main public building that served multiple functions. Public buildings have been excavated at Kiriath Sefer and at
Gamla. The examples at Kiriath Sefer and Gamla were similar in form
to the Hellenistic bouleterion, and are reminiscent of Hellenistic bouleteria from Asia Minor. Each of these buildings occupies a central position in its respective settlement and has been identified as synagogues
by the excavators. I would like to suggest that the apparent absence
of other public buildings at these sites probably indicates that these
should be regarded as multipurpose public structures, and not only
as synagogues. The main civic building in towns and villages thus followed the earlier Hellenistic model of the bouleterion. This is probably
in contrast to the examples in major cities which were modeled after
the Roman basilica.

The Boul and the Proseuche of Tiberias

Josephus describes in Life6 the proseuche of Tiberias, at the same time,
as the site of the boul, the city councils meetings and as house of
prayer. Tiberias, founded by Antipas, had a boul or city council. The
boul was the main ruling body of Jerusalem as well. Josephus mentions the boul of Jerusalem in the Edict of Claudius to Agrippa I.7
In Life Josephus writes mainly on the period related to his appointment as the
supreme commander of the Galilee on behalf of the revolutionary government in the
years 6667 ce. The central part of the book is dedicated to the rift between Josephus and the deputation sent by the central government in Galilee, on the orders
of Simon Ben Gamaliel and, in lesser measure, by the high priest Hanan. The main
adversary in this episode was the Pharisee leader Simon Ben Gamliel, who, influenced
by his friend John of Giscala, Josephus nemesis, attempted to have Josephus replaced
and recalled to Jerusalem to justify his actions. This proved largely unsuccessful. The
book also contains a harsh polemic against Justus of Tiberias, a fellow rebel and fellow turncoat. A good deal of the book is dedicated to the very difficult relationship
between Josephus and the population of Tiberias, the most important city of Galilee.
Josephus presents a detailed description of the three factions dividing a city that was
not inclined to revolution and rebellion. See Life 3334.
See Josephus, Ant. 20, 11. Here the boul is referred to as the main ruling body
of Jerusalem, even though it is followed by the word demos, by then a meaningless

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


Thanks to information scattered in War, Antiquities and the Life, we

know quite a lot about the boul of Tiberias in the late Second Temple
period. Tiberias, the city founded by Antipas, had a boul composed
of sixty members. The boul of Tiberias apparently had a chief archon
who directed its proceedings. In the years 6667 ce this was a certain Jeshua Ben Sapphias.8 There were other magistrates, including the
deka protoi, the archontes, the uparchoi and an agoranomos. Under
Antipas, for a time the agoranomos of Tiberias was no less than the
future Agrippa I.9 The boul continued well into late antiquity as the
main ruling bodies of the Jewish cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias. Rabbinic sources provide some scattered information about the boul of
Sepphoris and of Tiberias from the third century till the end of the
fourth century.10
In Life we are provided with the opportunity to observe the routine functioning of the boul of Tiberias. This body is not merely
mentioned en passant, and Josephus presents a vivid description of
a dramatic assembly of the boul. Josephus, who had been appointed
by the revolutionary government to direct the defense of Galilee, left
Tiberias for Tarichae. The next day, the Sabbath, as soon as Josephus

termlike Senatus Popolusque in the Imperial period after Tiberius, when the Comitia
were no longer consulted. According to Tacitus in the Annales, only the Senate could
approve laws in the Early Imperial period. The truth is that the comitia continued to
meet under Augustus and Tiberius and well in the Julio-Claudian period. There are
some interesting sources concerning the comitia. Dio Cassius, History 37, 28, 3 and
53, 20, 4, reports on the comitia under the rule of Augustus and Tiberius. Pliny the
Younger, Panegyricus 63, 2, reports on the comitias meeting under Trajan. For the
Tiberian period there are also two epigraphic sources. The first is the Tabula Hebana,
found in Tuscany and dated to December 19 ce. This source delineates the new
arrangements of comitia to commemorate Germanicus. The Tabula Siarensis, found
in Spain, dated to the beginning of the first century ce, contains similar arrangements
of the comitia. On the position of the Roman comitia in the Early Imperial period see
Millar 2002, 360377.
On Jeshua Ben Sapphias see War 2.599, 3.450, 452, 457, 467, 498 and Life
66 ff., 134 ff., 246, 271, 278, 294 ff., 300 ff.
About the various city bodies of Tiberias, on the boul, composed of 60 members,
and on the deka protoi, see War 2.639641; on the deka protoi, see Life, 69, 296; on the
archontes, see War 2.599; on the hyparchoi, see War 2.615; and on the agoranomos,
see Ant. 18.149. See also Levine 2000, 50.
On the Boule of Sepphoris and Tiberias in Late Antiquity see Goodblatt 2006,
404431. In this period, however, other magistrates as the strategoi, or duoviri, are
mentioned as heading the boul, now much more similar to the Western curia. See y.,
Yoma, 1. 2. 39a. On Jewish bouleutes appearing in Rabbinic sources see also y., Med
Qat. 2. 3. 81b, y., Peah, 1. 16a, y., H ag., 3. 48cy., abb. 12. 3. 13c and y., Pesh . 4. 1.


samuel rocca

was far away, there was a general assembly in the main synagogue,
probably instigated by Josephus enemies. The first to speak was Jonathan, whose official capacity is not specified, followed by Joshua Ben
Sapphias, the city chief magistrate (archon).11 The last to speak was
Justus of Tiberias. That the debate, even if it was held on Shabbath,
was formal, and not informal, is confirmed by the fact that at mid-day,
the time for the main Sabbath meal, it was adjourned to the following
day, with a motion of Jonathan and his friends. Moreover the council proceedings correspond to those of other boul in the Greek East:
speakers present their ideas and motions are passed or vetoed. Joshua
the archon addressed the city council with the word citizens, exactly
as a speaker in fifth century bce Athens would have done. However
there is indeed a reflection of the new revolutionary atmosphere prevailing in the boul. It is reflected in the presence of the plethos or

On Jeshua Ben Sapphias see Shahar 2005, 24566. According to Shahar Ben Sapphias was the main rebel leader in Tiberias. In fact together with Justus and John of
Giscala, he is the figure that appears most frequently in Life. Shahar deals with four
episodes in which Ben Sapphias features prominently: the destruction of the palace of
Antipas (Life 6569), the plundering of the wife of Ptolemy, King Agrippas overseer
(War 2.595607 and Life 126148), the forcible conversion of the nobles of Trachonitis (Life 112113 and 149154), and the massacre of the Tiberias Jews who opposed
the war (Life 67). Shahar stresses that Ben Sapphias was a Zealot leader, connected
with the School of Shammai and a rebel leader at local, regional and national level as
well. As local leader he dominated the city proletariat of Tiberias; as regional leader
he had much influence at Tarichae; and as national leader he closely collaborated with
the embassy from Jerusalem. See also Ben Shalom 1993. Thus Shahar sees Ben Sapphias as a new leader, fighting against the old leadership. I think that Shahar is correct
in regarding him as one of the extremist leaders. However that does not means that
Ben Sapphias was not the archon of the Tiberias boul before the rebellion of 66 ce. Or
in other words, that the boul of Tiberias had a different composition, and thus there
were different members after 66 ce than before the beginning of the revolt. On the
contrary I think that Jeshua, as well as Justus, were respected members of the Tiberias
boul prior to 66 ce. Josephus in Life 246 describes the mansion of Joshua, evidently
Joshua Ben Sapphias, as a great castle or baris, imposing as a citadel. He was clearly a
man of means. Moreover Josephus describes Justus, son of Pistus in Life 40 as a man
not unversed in Greek culture. I presume that someone possessing a good paideia
had to be a member of the ruling class. Moreover I would like to suggest that the name
Justus, Zadok in Hebrew, could indicate his belonging to the priestly aristocracy, as
Zadok is a priestly name. There appears to be no contradiction in Joshua having been
a demagogic leader and a member of the ruling class of Tiberias. It seems to me that
in Galilee, as in Judaea, the revolt was started by the leading element of the society, the
aristocracy, albeit forced from below. Only later did other elements, such as the rich
olive oil merchant John of Giscala, and of course the mob, take control. For Judaea
proper Goodman stresses that as soon as the revolt started in 66 ce, the Sadducees,
though in theory pro-Roman, took the side of the rebels so as not to loose face with
the population. See Goodman 1987, 36, 4244, 249.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


mob, which assisted at the deliberations, and thus was an element of

pressure against those not inclined to support the rebels. The presence
of the mob during a session of the city council would have probably
been unthinkable before 66 ce. As a result of the disturbance the boul
was adjourned for the first day of the week. Returning to Tiberias,
Josephus found the people, assembling in the synagogue. Josephus was
attacked verbally there by Jonathan once again, producing correspondence in front of the council and the mob.12
Another possible role of the proseuche of Tiberias, however not
mentioned by Josephus, was to serve as a court of law. Although the
boul and the city magistrates dominated city life, there were other
important authorities such as judges, who probably also administrated
justice in the same building where the assembly convened.
And yet the proseuche of Tiberias served also as synagogue. This is
evident from various passages in the Life. Josephus describes the chief
archon of Tiberias, Joshua Ben Saphias, coming towards him holding
a copy of the laws of Moses in his hands. Clearly, a public figure who
sat on the local boul would have taken the same law of Moses, the
foundation of Jewish law, and read it at the synagogue on the Sabbath.13
Later in Life the same individuals congregated in the same proseuche,
used for the proceedings of the city council, to pray.14 Josephus later
clearly describes his discussion, either formal or informal, with Jeshua,
the chief archon of Tiberias, in the proseuche during prayers.15 Thus,
the building used previously for the convening of the boul was later
used as a house of prayer.
Josephus therefore clearly indicates that the same building was used
not only as a house of prayer, as its name suggests, but was also the seat
of the boul. Thus, this multipurpose building served as both bouleuterion, and seat of the city council, and as proseuche, or house of prayer.
Although it is possible that the revolutionary Zealots met in the main

See Josephus, Life 277280, 283285. Josephus uses the terms demotikon ochlon
or plethos to indicate an unlawful assembly of the population; otherwise he would
have used the term ekklesia. But, as indicated in note 1 above, in the early Roman
period the citizens assemblies in the Greek East were disappearing and instead, only
the aristocratic boul continued to fulfill its duties as the main organ of self-rule of the
Greek city states under Roman rule. See Jones 1984, 171, 177.
Life 134.
See Life 294295. Josephus uses the words: kai pros euchas trapomenon, which
indeed indicate the act of prayer.
Life 295.


samuel rocca

synagogue instead of the secular bouleuterion because the session was

scheduled for the Sabbath, but if that were the case, Josephus would
have mentioned the existence of a bouleuterion in Tiberias, as he does
in Jerusalem.16 Based upon Josephus, therefore, the main public building in Tiberias in the Second Temple Period had both secular and
religious functions, and it may be regarded as a multi-purpose building. Josephus therefore clearly indicates that the proseuche of Tiberias
had a double function, secular and religious at once.17

The Proseuche of Tiberias and the Roman Basilica

Josephus describes the proseuche of Tiberias as a huge building,
capable of accommodating a large crowd.18 This building is probably
described in later Talmudic literature. The Jerusalem Talmud mentions indeed a building called the synagogue of the boul.19 Only the
late midrash on Psalms describes the synagogue of Tiberias. This is
probably the same building mentioned by Josephus as a huge building.
Rabbinic sources thus describe this building as a dyplastoon building,
or a basilica with two concentric rows of columns.20 However rabbinic
literature is much problematic. The midrash on Psalms 93 is dated to
the ninth century ce, and it was written after the terrible earthquake of
749 ce leveled the region. Is the building described a reflection of reality or merely a reflection of the stoa basilike of the Temple, a part of


See War 6.354.

This building, the proseuche of Tiberias, probably stood alone in the Second
Temple period. This corresponds to the situation in the whole Greek East at least till
the middle of the third century ce. In this period the city authorities did not left place
for any challenger. Euergetism is channeled to the city public buildings. However in
Late Antiquity the situation was different. Later in the fourth century ce there were
at least thirteen synagogues in Tiberias (b., Ber. 8a.); one of those was the synagogue
of the Babylonian community. But by then the central authority in city life was much
weaker not only in Tiberias but in the whole Greek East. On the whole the Christian
church took on the efforts of euergetism, before reserved for the city public buildings
only, but now directed to the erection of ecclesiastical buildings,. See Midr. ha-Gadol
on Deuteronomy 5: 12. See also Hirschfeld 2005, 1012.
See Life 277.
See y., eqal 7:5, 50c. A synagogue of Tiberias is mentioned in m., Erub. 10: 10.
See also Hirschfeld, 2005, 1012.
See Midr. on Pss 93.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


the temple well known by the sages?21 Two dyplastoon buildings within
a Jewish context existed at the end of the Second Temple period and
may have served as source for the plan of the proseuche of Tiberias. The
first building was Herods Royal Stoa (stoa basilike) (See Plate No. 1).
The second building was the main synagogue of Alexandria.
Josephus provides a detailed description of the Royal Stoa, erected
in 2120 bce.22 The Royal Stoa, a more developed form of the stoa, was
designed to roof a broad area. Since the length of wooden beams was
necessarily limited, the portico was shaped as a central hall with two
side aisles. The central hall was generally built to a greater height than
the aisles to accommodate windows. Its length was around 280 m,
a little less than that of the southern retaining wall. Its width must
have been at least 40 m.23 The Royal Stoa more closely resembled a
Roman basilica than a Greek stoa. The only difference is that while the
basilica is closed on all four sides, the Royal Stoa was open on one of
the long sides. This huge structure was probably the biggest basilica in
the Roman world. It was longer than the contemporary Basilica Julia
and the later Basilica Ulpia.24
The other dyplastoon building, the synagogue of Alexandria, mentioned by Philo as a huge building, is well-known also from a different
rabbinic source, the Babylonian Talmud, earlier than the midrash on
Psalms.25 The fact that the same type of building is described in two
It is worthy of note the word dyplastoon. The Midrash on Psalms uses a technical
term that was totally obsolete in Late Antiquity and in the Middle Ages. Is it possible
that this term may be a reflection of an earlier reality?
See Ant. 15.411417. . . . and the Royal basilica deserves to be mentioned as better than any other under the sun . . . The Royal basilica had columns that stood in four
rows one over against the other all along, for the fourth row was interwoven into the
wall, which also was built of stone; and the thickness of each pillar was such that three
men might, with their arms extended, fathom it round, and join their hands again,
while its length was twenty seven feet, with a double spiral at its base; and the number
of all the pillars was an hundred and sixty two. The capitals were made in the Corinthian order, and caused amazement by reason of the grandeur of the whole. These four
rows of pillars included three intervals for walking in the middle of the Basilica . . . But
the roofs were adorned with deep sculpture in wood, representing many sorts of figures; the middle was much higher than the rest, and the wall of the front was adorned
with beams, resting upon pillars, that were interwoven into it, and that front was all
of polished stone, insomuch that its fineness was incredible.
See Bahat 1992, 6470.
Carpiceci 1981, 1922, 50, 147.
We are taught that R. Judah said: He who has never seen Alexandria in Egypts
synagogue with the double colonnade has never seen the glory of Israel. It is said
that it was like a huge basilica, one colonnade within another, and it sometimes held
twice the number of people that had gone out of Egypt. In it, corresponding to the

Plan 1: Plan of the Royal Stoa at the southern end of the Temple Mount (from M., Ben Dov, In the Shadow of the Temple,
Jerusalem 1982, p. 125)Drawn anew by Dalit WeiblattKrauss.

samuel rocca

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


different sources points to the authenticity of the rabbinic sources, as

N. Hacham also points out in his article.26 The building described by
Rabbinic sources is also a huge dyplastoon basilica. Clearly this building, which displays Roman characteristics, was erected after the Roman
conquest of Egypt in 31 bce, but before 41 ce, when the pogroms suffered by the Jewish community of Alexandria would probably have
made the erection of such a huge and beautiful building impossible.27

seventy-one elders of the Sanhedrin, there were seventy-one golden cathedras, each of
them weighing no less than twenty-one talents of gold. In the middle of the synagogue
was a wooden bimah, upon which the sexton of the synagogue stood with scarves
in his hand. When the time came to answer Amen he waved the scarves and the
congregation responded with Amen. Moreover, they were not seated haphazardly.
Goldsmiths sat separately, silversmiths sat separately; blacksmiths separately, master
weavers separately, and apprentice weavers separately, so that when a stranger or poor
man entered the synagogue, he was able to identify the members of his craft. He would
then join them, and through them earn a livelihood for himself and members of his
family. See b., Sukkah 51B. On the Alexandria Synagogue see also Philo, Legat. 134,
where the building is called megiste and perisemotate.
Hacham analyzes the Talmudic passage (b., Sukkah 51B) which describes the synagogue of Alexandria. Hacham points to the fact that the description of the Alexandria
synagogue is very similar to that of the temple of Jerusalem. On the similarity between
the Alexandria synagogue and the temple, see pp. 46476. Hacham stresses various
terms found in b., Yoma 25a to describe the temple as a big basilica, thus matching
the description of the synagogue of Alexandria. The seventy-one golden cathedras of
the Seventy-one Elders are in fact similar to the Seventy-one Members of the Sanhedrin who sat in the Lishkat ha-Gazit, situated near the temple (m., Sanh. 1, 6). Finally,
Hacham points out that guild members sat separately in the Alexandria synagogue in
a manner similar to that in which guild members participated in the Simchat Beth haShoeva ceremony in Jerusalem (m., Mid., 2, 5). According to Hacham, the purpose of
the rabbinic sources is not so much to give a detailed description of the building as to
compare the Alexandria synagogue to the temple in Jerusalem. This comparison serves
to explain the theological purpose of the Alexandria synagogue: to take the place of the
Jerusalem sanctuary. Thus R. Judah attributes to this synagogue a status comparable to
that of the Jerusalem temple. R. Judah thus legitimizes the Diaspora as an alternative
center for the Jewish people. This view, however, is not accepted by all the Sages. Of
the opposing view, R. Shmuel stresses the prohibition to return to Egypt. Then R. Shimon Bar Yochai concludes that Egyptian Jewry was destroyed in 115117 ce because
it challenged the Land of Israel. According to R. Shimon Bar Yochai it is forbidden to
leave the Land of Israel under any circumstance. In concluding, b., Sukkah 55ab has
a religious and didactic purpose: to explain the cause of eventsthe extreme hostility
between the Jewish People and Romethat led to the destruction of Egyptian Jewry.
See Hacham 2003, 46388.
The plan of the synagogue of Alexandria appears to have originated in the caesareum of Cyrene (excavated) and in that of Alexandria (not excavated). See WardPerkins 1986, 366. See also Bahat 1990, 44. See also Bonacasa and S. Ensoli 2000,
9096. This synagogue was apparently not financed by a Herodian ruler, because
it stood in Egypt, which was the personal property of the Roman emperor, ruled
through the Praefectus Aegyptii, a member of the equestrian class. Senators could visit
Egypt only after receiving the express permission of the Emperor. Thus, a Herodian


samuel rocca

It seems to me that Antipas (or Agrippa I/Agrippa II) erected the

dyplastoon at Tiberias in imitation of Herods stoa basilike and maybe
also the dyplastoon of Alexandria. The building in Tiberias, like the
stoa basilike in Jerusalem, was probably part of a porticoed courtyard.
This building was probably no longer in use at the beginning of the
fourth century, as by then, a new basilica had been constructed in
the center of Tiberias,28 quite different from the building described
in Talmudic sources. Antipas also erected other buildings in Tiberias,
including a stadium, a palace, and city walls in imitation of similar
Herodian buildings.29 In conclusion, it seems to me that the proseuche
of Tiberias, a dyplastoon building, used as the seat of the boul and as
synagogue, followed the layout of the Roman basilica.

Proseuchai-Bouleuteria in Towns and Villages

In towns and villages there were different authorities than in the great
cities. Josephus wrote that the main authority was in the hands of the
seven appointed magistrates, the seven elders, who formed the lowest
court, and they were found in towns and villages. Their main task was
to settle legal cases. Moreover, Josephus asserts that two Levites had to
be co-opted by the local courts, together with the seven judges.30 The

act of euergetism could have been seen as interference by the imperial authorities.
Moreover Josephus does not mention the building in the lists of buildings erected
outside Judea by King Herod. It seems that only the family of the alabarch would have
been capable of financing that building. See Josephus, War 5.205 and Ant. 18.159160,
259, 19.276, 20.100 on Alexander the alabarch, leader of the Jewish community of
This building consists of an apsidal hall with a semicircular apse facing east.
It has an entrance in the eastern wall through the courtyard. This basilica was part of
a larger surrounding complex of courtyards and auxiliary rooms covering an area of
200 m2. See Hirschfeld 2005, 38. See also Hirschfeld 1991, 1112.
See Ant. 18.3638, on the foundation of Tiberias; Life 6469 on Antipas palace;
War 3.537540, Life 9092 on the stadium; and War 3.447461 on the city walls.
According to Josephus, Moses decreed that seven men should bear rule in every
city . . . and that two men of the tribe of Levi should be assigned to each court as subordinate officers. See Ant. 4.214. Josephus obviously attributes to Moses the composition of the contemporary local courts of Judea. According to Josephus, Moses decreed
that seven men should bear rule in every city . . . and that two men of the tribe of Levi
should be assigned to each court as subordinate officers. However this commandment does not appear in the Pentateuch. See also Ant. 16.203.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


information supplied by Josephus and the Mishnah are at odds in this

Where did these magistrates sit in judgment, obviously in a public
building. Were there two main public buildings in each village, one
with a secular function, housing the local court of law and one serving
as the house of prayer, the proseuche or synagogue? Or was only one
building was used for both purposes?
This time archaeological excavations rather than literary sources
provide a possible answer. Small Jewish settlements of the late Second
Temple period have one main public building. These public buildings
were shaped following the Late Classical-Hellenistic bouleuteria, and
thus followed a Greek model. These buildings are quite similar to the
Late Classical-Hellenistic bouleuteria, such as the ones at Priene and at
Miletus.32 G. Foerster, followed by Z. Maoz,33 were the first to highlight
the relationship between the early synagogue buildings of the Second

The Mishnah alludes to the law court or beth din. See m., Sotah 1, 3 and m.,
Sanh. 11, 4. The Talmud also mentions the seven foremost men of the town. See
BT, Meg. 26a. Safrai suggests the existence of two parallel legal systems during the
talmudic period. One was the municipal court where the seven elders served as judges,
as described above. The other system, probably later than 70 ce, operated within the
sphere of the sages. See Safrai 1994, 5354. On the other hand, according to the Mishnah, at the highest level was a court composed of three ordained judges, which dealt
with indemnity law and with monetary cases. This court theoretically also had the
right to pass capital punishment judgments. At a lower level was a court composed of
three laymen chosen by the litigants or a court composed of one ordained judge. This
court was responsible for civil and criminal cases. Thus, it could judge cases involving money, robbery and assault, award of damages, condemning a wrongdoer to be
scourged, and also cases connected with halitzah. This court also dealt with religious
issues such as the date of the new moon, intercalation of the year, and with some
sacrifices such as sin-offerings, or the redemption of the second tithe. See m. Sanh. 1,
13. The courts described by the Mishna, were, at least till late antiquity, voluntary and
parallel to the municipal courts. See Lapin 2006, 206229. According to Lapin, rabbis
remained a marginal group till the second half of the fourth century ce.
On the bouleuterion of Miletos see Kstner 1992, 5658.
This subject was Foersters Ph.D. thesis. However Foerster did not regard the
Hellenistic bouleuterion as the only source of inspiration, citing also the pronaoi of the
Eastern pagan temples such as those at Dura. See Foerster 1972. When he published
the article, Foerster had only Gamla as a model. The synagogues at Masada and Herodium were two halls transformed by the Zealots into synagogues, but these were not
initially planned as synagogues. Foerster links the plan of the Galilean synagogues to
that of the Roman basilica as a further stage in the development of synagogue architecture. See Foerster 1981, 4548. On the relationship between the Zealots synagogue
at Masada and the bouleuterion, see Yadin 1965, 7879. However, Maoz, analyzing
the synagogue of Gamla, which, in contrast to the Zealots synagogues at Herodium
and Masada, was built as such, saw the telesterion and the bouleuterion as its primary
sources of inspiration. See Maoz 1981, 3541.


samuel rocca

Temple period, the Zealots synagogues at Masada and Herodium,

and the Greek bouleuterion. The excavators identified these buildings as bouleuteriashaped synagogues. I would like to suggest that
these buildings, shaped as bouleuteria, had a multipurpose function
and served not just as synagogue, but as the place of assembly for the
town or villages elders during the week and as seat of the local court
as well.
I shall use the term bouleuterionshaped to describe these buildings, as the term bouleuterion indicates a structure housing the boul,
or city council numbering sometimes hundreds of members. Clearly
the term bouleuterion is not suitable to describe the place of assembly
for the town or village elders in towns and villages, hardly numbering
more than ten persons. Thus the term bouleuterionshaped is much
more appropriate.
The synagogue of Gamla (See Plate No. 2), a small Jewish fortified city and of Kiriath Sefer (See Plate No. 3), a small village in the
Modiin region, are good examples.
The Gamla synagogue, one of the two main buildings excavated
in the town,34 consists of a building that was erected as late as the
beginning of first century ce, though a mid-first-century bce foundation, between Alexander Jannaeus and Herod, has also been proposed.
Although it is not the only public building of the town, it is the only
one that could have served as the seat of the elders, as court of law, and
synagogue. The building is rectangular. It lies adjacent to the western

In the last few years another public building had been excavated at Gamla. This
building, in Area S, is shaped like a short basilica. Its overall size is 16 m eastwest and
15 m northsouth. The building consists of a wider central nave and two smaller side
aisles divided in further rooms. The building was constructed of finely dressed ashlars,
including huge ashlar door-jambs, and a lintel decorated with a rosette flanked by two
palm trees. See Syon and Yavor 2005, 1621. See also Syon 2001, 1719. The excavators suggested the possibility that this building could have served as a synagogue
as well. It seems to me, however, that the building is extremely similar to the main
hall of the Roman principia, found in permanent Roman military camps dated to the
FlavianHadrianic period. Thus, it was, perhaps, a structure erected to host the city
governor on behalf of King Agrippa. There he could have convened his own court
of law, in opposition to the court of law formed by the city elders. According to Life
4647, Philip son of Jacimus, King Agrippa IIs eparch, was wounded by rebels and
found refuge near Gamla, sending orders to members of the garrison of Gamla to join
him. Evidently, Gamla hosted a small royal garrison. It is possible that the basilica was
the residence of the royal commander of the Gamla garrison. Later, Josephus (Life
5861) writes that Philip son of Jacimus entered Gamla and remained there as temporary governor of the fortress-city. On the principia see Johnson 1983, 123152.

Plan 2: Plan of the Gamla Synagogue (from S. Gutman, The Synagogue at Gamla, L. Levine (ed), Ancient Synagogues
Revealed, Jerusalem 1981, p. 31).Drawn anew by Dalit WeiblattKrauss.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue



samuel rocca

city-wall. It was oriented along a northeast to southwest axis and is

25.5 m. long by 17 m. wide. The main feature is a hall, 13.4 by 9.3 m. In
the northwestern corner of the hall is a niche, possibly used for storage. Two entrances are located in the southwest, one clearly the main
entrance leading to the hall. Another entrance from the east opens
onto the eastern side. A peristyle of fourteen columns surrounded
the main hall on all four sides. The corner columns are heart-shaped.
Between the wall and the columns, one row of benches surrounds the
building. A stepped cistern just west of the main entrance to the synagogue may have been used as mikveh, but it dates from the period of
the First Jewish Revolt. East of the main synagogue hall are several
rooms, one of which may have had an opening into the main hall and
contained benches. This may have been used as a study room.35
The building at Kiriath Sefer, dated to early first and second centuries bce, was erected in the most prominent part of the settlement.
It is a square structure, oriented along a northwestsoutheast axis. Its
northwestern facade was built of hewn stone. Outside the building
was found a large lintel with traces of rosettes and diagonal lines. The
floor was paved with flagstones. There are benches along three sides:
northeast, southeast and southwest. Behind the benches was an aisle,
about 1.8 m. long, similar to one in the synagogue of Gamla. The hall
contained four columns with Doric-like capitals. The building was offset from the surrounding complex. It was abandoned in the aftermath
of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.36 However it is important to emphasize that
the building at Kiriath Sefer served the population of a very small village and thus the building probably served only as synagogue, as there
was hardly the need for a meeting house in such a small village.
Clearly, these bouleuterion shaped buildings were multipurpose,
first as the site where the local magistrates and the court (beth din)
were periodically convened; then, on the Sabbath, the building assumed
the secondary function of synagogue. Thus, the Torah was read every
Sabbath and the priestly and levitical courses performed their rituals
when not in Jerusalem. The shape of the Greek bouleuterion likewise
suggests both uses. It is important to underline the civic function of
both the Torah reading, the reading of the nomos patrios or law of the


See Levine 2000, 5152.

See Levine 2000, 6566. See also Magen, Zionit, and Sirkis 1999, 2628.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


Plan 3: Plan of the Synagogue of Kiryat Sefer (from Y., Magen, Y., Zionit, and
E., Sirkis, A Jewish Village and Synagogue of the Second Temple Period,
Qadmoniot 32, 1 (117) 1999, p. 28).Drawn anew by Dalit WeiblattKrauss.


samuel rocca

state, and the priestly and levitical courses, which stood for the state
and for the exclusive cult of Judaea, that of the temple of Jerusalem.
It is important to draw another parallel to the Greek bouleuterion,
which also had a sacral character. There was always an altar in these
buildings.37 Any time the boul met, sacrifices were made to the city
patron god. In the Greek world a civic activity was obviously followed
or preceded by a cultic activity, a sacrifice to the gods. The purpose of
these sacrifices was clear: the sacrifice could bring luck a priori to the
decisions of the council, or a posteriori, it could show that the decisions taken followed the favor of the gods. Although sacrifices were
not made in the synagogue, the ritual Torah reading on the Sabbath
gave the building the same sacral character that sacrifices gave to the
bouleterion. Thus, the same can be said of the synagogue and Torah
reading. The purpose of Torah reading each Sabbath, an activity connected to both legislation, the main activity of the city council, and
judgment, the main activity of the court of law, was thus as a source of
inspiration, or a confirmation from the Holy Scriptures for the activity of the assembly or the judges. Thus, instead of sacrifice, an activity
permitted only at the interior of the temple precinct, the Jews read
from the nomos theos, or the Sacred Scriptures. The main purpose
was the same as that of the sacrifices carried out in front of the Greek

Thus, the proseuche of Tiberias fulfilled various functions: as house
of assembly for the boul, courts of justice as well as synagogue. The
functions of the proseuche of Tiberias were reflected in its form, that
of a Roman basilica.
In small towns, the situation was similar. A multi-purpose building functioned as house of assembly for the elders, court of justice,
and synagogue. While the proseuche of Tiberias took the form of a
Roman basilica, the public buildings in towns and villages, such as
those excavated at Gamla and Kiriath Sefer, were in the form of Hel37

The best known example is the Altar of Victoria, which stood in the Roman
Curia, where the Senate assembled. This statue stood in the building until 382 ce, or
perhaps until 400 ce. See Lanon 1999, 14850. See also Simmachus, Relationes 6,
Ambrosius, Epistulae 27 and 28.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


lenistic bouleuteria. In terms of size, space was limited in these buildings. Even without women, children, and slaves, there would have been
insufficient room for the entire male community. The Torah was probably read only by and to those who then acted according to its words:
judges, city councilors, magistrates, and town and village elders.

Appendix I
It is useful to compare the terminology and function of the Diaspora
synagogues in the writings of Josephus with those of the Tiberias
synagogue. We shall see that while the Diaspora synagogues and
the synagogue of Tiberias fulfilled similar functions on the Sabbath,
they normally had different functions. The Diaspora synagogues were
used as community centers, while the synagogue of Tiberias fulfilled a
political-legislative task. Does the terminology used by Josephus reflect
the synagogue both as a communal assembly and as a building? Josephus utilizes the words proseuche and synagogue. Here there are some
In the decree of the city of Halycarnassus on behalf of its Jewish
community, Josephus uses the word proseuche to indicate a house
of prayer/community center.38
However, writing on the synagogue of Dor, when the local population brought a statue of the emperor into it under the rule of
Caligula, Josephus uses the word synagoge which, according to the
context, indicates a building rather than an assembly.39
The word synagoge is also used to indicate the building, synagogue/
community center of the Jews of Caesarea Maritima, the desecration
of which led to the beginning of the Jewish War.40 In this case Josephus notes the congregation of the local Jewish community in the
synagogue on the Sabbath to read the Torah and notes the presence
of Torah scrolls in the building.


See Ant. 14.258.

See Ant. 19.300, 305.
See War 2.285289.


samuel rocca

Josephus appears to use the words proseuche and synagoge interchangeably. In the Psalms of Solomon, on the other hand, we find a
good example of these two terms being used with different meanings:
proseuche indicates the building, while synagoge indicates the congregation.41 It is noteworthy that Josephus refers to Diaspora synagogues.
Halycarnassus, Dora and Caesarea Maritima were Greek cities, with
Greek constitutions, regardless of whether Halycarnassus was in Ionia,
in Asia Minor, and Caesarea Maritima and Dora were Greek cities in
Judaea. Josephus emphasizes the main functions of these synagogues
as Torah reading on the Sabbath and the community activities. As we
saw above, the activities associated with the proseuche of Tiberias were
mainly political (as the seat of the boul and of the city magistrates),
and only secondarily of a religious nature.

Bahat, D. 1990. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Carta.
Ben Shalom, I. 1993. The School of Shammai and the Zealots Struggle against Rome.
Jerusalem: Izhak Ben Zvi Institute. (Hebrew)
Bonacasa, N., and Ensoli, S., (eds.), 2000. Cirene, Centri e monumenti dellAntichita,
Milano: Electa.
Carpiceci, C. A. 1981. Roma, comera 2000 anni fa, Firenze.
Foerster, G. 1972. Galilean Synagogues and their Relationship to Hellenistic and Roman
Art and Architecture, Ph.D. Thesis, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem.
. 1981. Architectural Models of the Greco-Roman Period and the Origin of
the Galilean Synagogue. Pages 4548 in L. I. Levine (ed.), Ancient Synagogues
Revealed. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.
Goodblatt, D. 2006. The Political and Social History of the Jewish Community in the
Land of Israel, c. 235268. Pages 413415 in S. T. Katz (ed.), The Cambridge History
of Judaism IV, The Late RomanRabbinic Period. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Goodman, M. 1987. The Ruling Class of Judaea, The Origins of the Jewish Revolt against
Rome A.D. 6670. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Hacham, N. 2003. From Splendor to Disgrace; On the Destruction of Egyptian Jewry
in Rabbinic Literature. Tarbiz 72, 4: 463488. (Hebrew)
Hirschfeld, Y. 1991. Antiquity Sites in Tiberias. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.
2005. Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim Tiberias: A Handbook of Primary
Sources. Tiberias.
Johnson, A. 1983. Roman Forts of the First and Second Century AD in Britain and the
German Provinces. London: A. & C. Black.

It is noteworthy that Josephus double terminology is also present in the Pss. Sol.
Thus the term synagogue in the Psalms of Solomon appears both as synagoge (X,
8, XVII, 18, 48, 50) and as proseuche (VI, 5). The term synagogue, however, refers
there to the community of believers, while the term proseuche probably refers to the
building itself.

the purposes and functions of the synagogue


Jones, A. H. M. 1984. The Greek City, From Alexander to Justinian. Oxford: Oxford UP.
Kstner, K. 1992. Pergamon Museum, Griechische und Rmische Architektur. Mainz.
Lanon, B. 1999. La vita quotidiana a Roma nel Tardo Impero. Milano: Fabbri Editori.
Lapin, H. 2006. The Origins and the Development of the Rabbinic Movement in the
Land of Israel. Pages 206229 in S. T. Katz (ed.), The Cambridge History of Judaism
IV, The Late RomanRabbinic Period. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Levine, L. I. 2000. The Ancient Synagogue, The First Thousand Years. New Haven:
Yale UP.
Magen, Y., Zionit, Y. and Sirkis, E. 1999. A Jewish Village and Synagogue of the Second Temple Period. Qadmoniot 32, 1 (117): 2628. (Hebrew)
Maoz, Z. 1981. The Synagogue of Gamla and the Typology of the Second Temple
Period Synagogues. Pages 3541 in Levine, L. I. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues Revealed,
Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.
Millar, F. 2002. The Roman City State under the Emperors, 29 B.C.A.D. 69. Pages
360377 in Rome, the Greek World and the East I, The Roman Republic and the
Augustan Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Safrai, Z. 1994. Economy of Roman Palestine. London: Routledge.
Sanders, E. P. 1992. Judaism, Practice and Belief, 66 BCE66 CE. London: SPCK.
Shachar, Y. 2005. Joshua Ben Sapphias and the Appearance of the Zealot Movement
belonging to the School of Shammai in Galilee during the War of Annihilation.
Pages 245266 in D. Gera and M. Ben Zeev (eds.). Ohev Shalom, Researches in
Honor of Israel Friedman Ben Shalom in Honor of his Attaining the Age of Eighty.
Beersheva: Ben Gurion University. (Hebrew)
Syon, D., and Yavor, Z. 2005. Gamla 19972000. Atiqot 50: 1621. (Hebrew)
Syon, D. 2001. Gamla, Old and New. Qadmoniot 34, 1: 233. (Hebrew)
Ward-Perkins, J. B. 1986. Roman Imperial Architecture. Harmondsworth.
Yadin, Y. 1965. The Excavations of Masada 1963/64. IEJ 15: 7879.


Gottfried Schimanowski

Es ist unbestritten: Der Jerusalemer Tempel spielt in den Werken
des Josephus eine ganz wesentliche Rolle. Zum einen natrlich, weil
Josephus selbst Zeuge seiner Zerstrung wurde. Nicht zufllig wird der
Entschluss der Zeloten fr das Ende der Annahme von Opfergaben
von Nichtjuden und damit auch fr den Kaiser fr ihn zum Grund fr
den Ausbruch des jdischen Krieges.2 Tempelgebude und Tempelbezirk bekommen eine entscheidende Bedeutung bei der Eroberung
und Zerstrung durch die Rmer im jdischen Krieg. In aller Ausfhrlichkeit wird dieser Teil des Krieges geschildert. In diesem Zusammenhang findet sich auch eine der detailliertesten Beschreibungen des
Gebudes und des ganzen Areals berhaupt.3
Insgesamt existieren von Josephus gleich drei ausfhrliche Beschreibungen; zunchst der Bau durch Salomo, wobei eigene Kenntnisse
durch die Erweiterungen durch Herodes schon das Bild bestimmen
werden (Ant. 8).4 Der Wiederaufbau nach dem Exil findet dagegen
nur kurz Erwhnung (Ant. 11) und bereitet wegen seiner angesagten
geringeren Pracht und Schnheit zugleich die nchste Phase vor.5 Der
Erweiterungsbau und vllige Umbau ( oder )6

Der mndliche Charakter der Konferenz in Haifa ist bewusst beibehalten worden.
Bell. 2:409 (vgl. Anm. 112.189 zu Bellum, Buch 2 bei Michel/Bauernfeind 1963),
gleichzeitig mit der Eroberung von Masada. Mit etwas anderem Akzent Bell. 4:318
innerjdisch als Angriff auf die Priesteraristokratie auf der ihr Heil [] beruht
Bell. 5:184237 (s.u. Abschnitt 3).
S.u. Abschnitt 1.
Zunchst wird der Altar errichtet, danach der ganze Tempel, der schnell vollendet wird und die frhere Generation an Pracht und Gre (
) des ersten Tempels erinnerte; der Bau wird dann als weit rmlicher ( ) apostrophiert (11:81; vgl. 82: ).
Bell. 1:401 ; vgl. hnlich von Joas (Ant. 9:161ff) oder Josia (Ant. 10:54ff).
Ant. 15:380ff (11:1) oder auch 17:162 (6:3) ; vgl. Ant. 7:91ff von den Plnen


gottfried schimanowski

unter Herodes gibt Josephus noch einmal Gelegenheit, Einzelheiten

des Tempelareals in aller Ausfhrlichkeit darzustellen (Ant. 15).7 Die
dritte Beschreibung istwie erwhntbei der Schilderung der Eroberung der Stadt durch die Rmer enthalten (Bell. 5). Die Bedeutung
dieses letzten Textes wird dadurch noch einmal verstrkt, dass auch
in der Auseinandersetzung mit Apion der Tempel als ein Zeichen der
Verstndigung und Weltoffenheit vorgestellt wird (Apion 2).8 Darber
hinaus muss aber viertens auch die Herstellung und Erklrung des
Bundeszeltes mit einbezogen werden.9 Schon bei der Wstenwanderung Israels und Schilderung der Ereignisse und der Taten des Mose
und Aarons wird in den Bchern drei und vier der Antiquitates der
Blick fortwhrend von dem Zelt der Begegnung auf das sptere Tempelgebude in Jerusalem gelenkt. Das Begegnungszelt wird damit zum
beweglichen, transportablen Tempel stilisiert, wie auch spter
immer wieder auf die Wstenzeit zurckgegriffen wird (Ant. 3:103:
); damit wird fr den
bestehenden Tempel die Wstenzeit als die legitime Vorgngerzeit in
Anspruch genommen. Beim Tempel kommt es also nicht nur auf das
Gebude an, seine Architektur, Gre und Schnheit, sondern auf die
Symbolik, die sich hinter allen seinen Elemente, und vor allem immer
wieder bei ihm als gesamte Anlage verbirgt. Dem werde ich nicht in
aller Ausfhrlichkeit nachgehen knnen.10 Einige wenige Beobachtungen zu den Texten sollen jeweils gengen.

Davids oder Ant. 11:9ff vom Wiederaufbau nach dem Exil. Der zweite Begriff in Verbindung mit dem Verb ist der hufigste.
S.u. Abschnitt 2.
Apion 2,102109, wo nur der lateinische Text berliefert ist. In dieser kompaktesten Beschreibung des Tempels bei Josephus wird auch die Offenheit in alle Himmelsrichtungen vertreten (vier Tore), vor allem die Reinheit herausgestellt und allen
Vorwrfen von geheimen Bruchen entgegengetreten. Diese Offenheit und Zugnglichkeit ist vor allem seit der Baumanahmen durch Herodes dem Groen erreicht
worden; bei vergleichbaren griechischen oder rmischen Heiligtmern ist in der Regel
nur ein zentraler Zugang von einer Richtung her mglich; vgl. Richardson 2004, 293.
Japp, 58f weist allerdings einige hnlichkeiten mit Tempelanlagen in Nachbargebieten
Judas auf, wie z.B. der Sdtempel in Petra: Die spezifische Anordnung in Jerusalem
allerdings scheint genuin. Vgl. Bauckham 1996, passim.
S.u. Abschnitt 4.
Auch der Frage nach dem so genannten Kultus, dem Tempelgottesdienst, der
natrlich immer wieder in einzelnen Aussagen mitspielt, kann ich in diesem Beitrag nicht nachgehen. Vgl. z.B. den berhmten grundlegende Ausspruch (mAvoth
1:2): Schimon der Gerechte war einer von den letzten Mnnern der Groen Versammlung. Er pflegte zu sagen: Die Welt steht ( )auf drei Dingen: der Tora, dem

propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


Der salomonische Tempel (Ant. 8:6198 [3:19])11

Nach einer sehr ausfhrlichenfiktiven und sich an manchen Stellen
erheblich widersprechenden12zeitlich genau fixierten Einordnung
des Baubeginns durch Salomo wird der Tempel beschrieben nach den
Strukturen, die ihm zunchst der biblische Text vorgab:13 von den Fundamenten bis hin zu den wichtigen Kultgegenstnden wie Altar und
Leuchter. Allein schon die Flle der fnf Zeitangaben hat eine przise
Fixierung unmglich machen lassen. Sie scheinen voller Symbolik zu
stecken.14 So verbirgt sich hinter der ersten Angabe des Baubeginns
von insgesamt 600 Jahren nach dem Exodus (nach 8 Jahren Bauzeit)
sicher eine runde Zahl, dass das Volk auf diese Weise ihr vollendetes
Heiligtum in Besitz nehmen konnte.15
Ein besonderes Thema ist die Aufteilung des Tempelbezirks in die
Vorbauten, Vorhfe, bis hin zum Tempelgebude selbst. Das beinhaltet auch die gewaltigen Erdbewegungen und Fundierungsarbeiten, die
zur Vorbereitung des Baus bentigt wurde, um schlielich die Vollendung in seiner ganzen Gre und Herrlichkeit tragen zu knnen. Josephus geht z.B. bei der Beschreibung der Decke auf die Schnheit der

Gottesdienst ( ) und dem Tun von Liebeswerken. Vgl. 2 Chr. 31:21 (in
anderer Reihenfolge).
Der Beginn: (8:61). Das Ende:
Josephus hat natrlich in den zwischen den einzelnen Werken liegenden Zeitabschnitten nicht das frher Geschriebene vergessen; unwahrscheinlich ist auch, dass er
seine Meinung zu bestimmten Persnlichkeiten wie z.B. Herodes gendert hat; ebenso
wenig berzeugend ist inzwischen die Hypothese der lteren Josephusforschung, er
htte mit unterschiedlichen Quellen gearbeitet. Vielmehr muss in der jeweiligen
Darstellung nach der Aussageabsicht gefragt werden; allein das impliziert durchaus
unterschiedliche Akzentuierungen und ist fr die antike Geschichtsschreibung generell kennzeichnend! Zu Herodes vgl. z.B. Vogel 2002, 14; 1718.
Dort 1 Kn 6:1 immerhin auch durch zwei Daten bestimmt: 480 Jahre nach
dem Auszug und im vierten Jahr der Regierungszeit des Knigs. 2 Chr 3:1 wird nur
die Regierungszeit angefhrt. Die LXX schliet sich dem an, wenn auch eine HSS
merkwrdigerweise nur 440 Jahre zhlt. Insgesamt setzt sich die Zahl wohl symbolisch
zusammen: 12x40 Jahre (vgl. die Genealogie in 1 Chr 5:2941). 1 Kn: die sichtbaren
Auenbereiche, Innenausstattung, Altar, Tore und Hof. Ganz zum Schluss erst die
Fundamentlegung (1 Kn 6:37).
592 Jahre nach dem Exodus (vgl. MT; hier wohl insgesamt dann 600 Jahre); 1020
nach Abrahams Auszug (Widerspruch zu Ant. 2:318).
hnlich Symbolzahlen finden sich in den LAB zur Urgeschichte u.. Hierzu vgl.
M. Vogel, Tempel und Tempelkult in Pseudo-Philos Liber Antiquitarum Biblicarum,
in: Ego 1999, 25163.


gottfried schimanowski

Verziehrungen und des Goldberzuges ein, dem hellen Glanz (8:68),16

sodass die Eintretenden von allen Seiten durch den Glanz des Goldes
geblendet wurden.17 Helligkeit, Glanz, Lichteffekte,18 Edelmetalle, der
ganze Zierrat machen die Pracht des Gebudes aus, die jeden Besucher
in seinen Bann schlgt. Wenn man so will zeigen sich hier propagandistische Zge von der sthetischen Seite her.
Die vier Himmelsrichtungen, als ffnung in die ganze Welt, spielen
gleich mehrmals eine Rolle, sowohl bei dem sog. ehernen Meer (8:80),19
als auch bei den Toren der ueren Sulenhalle (8:96).20 Damit war die
Welt-Offenheit des ganzen Bezirks in alle Richtungen gewhrleistet.21
Das setzt auch die Begrndung fr die Platzierung des Altars vor dem
Zentralgebude voraus (Ant. 8:106).
Insgesamt verstrkt sich der Glanz und die Schnheit der ganzen
Anlage, so dass Salomo als Knig in besonderer Weise in seinem
Reichtum und seinem persnlichen Engagement fr den Tempel
charakterisiert werden kann (8:99).22 Was zunchst bei der Beschreibung der architektorischen Gegebenheiten nur implizit zum Ausdruck
gebracht wird holt Josephus nach im anschlieenden Gebet Salomos.
Das irdische Haus reprsentiert die vier Elemente () von
Himmel, Luft, Erde und Meer ( . . .
), wobei der Himmel das Element des Feuers ersetzt.23 hnlich wie im Werk gegen Apion wird auch in Ant. 8:116f an dieser Stelle
der Vorwurf der Menschenfeindlichkeit abgewehrt. Im sog. Tempelgebet wird in liturgischer Form Gott selbst als Zeuge angerufen, dass
wir grundstzlich nicht menschenfeindlich sind, oder feindlich gegenber Fremden, die nicht im eigenen Land wohnen, sondern wnschen,


so dass der ganze Tempel (innen) in einem hellen Glanz erstrahlte (

. . . .

Vgl. das Kapitel Light bei Hayward 1996, 15f.




Vgl. die Mglichkeit der Einsichtnahme am Ende des Abschnittes (8:97), ein
Zugang, der an anderer Stelle wie Bell. 5:193206 und Ant. 15:417420 in grerer
Ausfhrlichkeit geschildert werden.
. Vgl. Ant. 15:421.
Zum Ganzen vgl. Jonquire, S. 76.


propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


dass alle Menschen in gleicher Weise die Hilfe Gottes erhalten und seines Segens teilhaftig werden.

In dieser Weise wird die Weltoffenheitgegen die Aussage des

biblischen Textesverndert. Die Erwhlung mit der Absonderung
von den Vlkern passt nicht in das Konzept des Autors. Dazu dient
auch die Bestimmung des Tempels im Besonderen, der mit dem Begegnungszelt gleichzeitig zusammengeschlossen wird (8:106).

Die Erweiterung unter Herodes (Ant. 15:391421 [11:36])

Ganz parallel wie beim ersten Bericht beginnt Josephus den Erweiterungsbau unter Herodes25 mit den Fundierungsarbeiten. Hiermit wird
die Kontinuitt zum ersten Tempel betont herausgestellt. Wieder werden die Schnheit und das kostbare Material herausgearbeitet, damit
der Anblick des beraus gewaltigen und kunstvollen Bauwerkes
wahres Staunen erregte. (15:394)26 Immer wieder werden Gre und
Hhe des Bauwerkes gerhmt.27 Tore und die Sulenhallen lassen das
Zentrum mit dem Allerheiligsten in seiner Besonderheit hervortreten
und bestimmen so das richtige Verhltnis (
) zwischen Zentralbau und Peripherie (15:396). Horizontale wie vertikale Dimensionen werden so erschlossen.
Alles in allem ist das Werk neben der Verherrlichung des jdischen
Gottes ein Zeichen der Frmmigkeit des Herodes28und der Sicherheit

Zu Herodes und der Frmmigkeit, die durch seine Tempelerweiterungen zum
Ausdruck kommt vgl. Richardson 2004, bes. 22539. Zu seinem Bauprogramm vgl.
bes. die allgemeinen Angaben Bell. 1:401428. Hier im Werk wirdanders als in der
im nchsten Abschnitt besprochenen Stelle im Bellumdie (durchaus ambivalente)
Rolle des Herodes besonders herausgestellt. Richardson vermutet folgende Faktoren:
His (Josephus) deliberate neglect of Herod at this point in War may have to do
with two other factors. On the one hand, earlier Josephus may have been unwilling
as a priest to attribute the magnificence of the temple to a commoner as Herod; on
the other, he wanted to emphasize the Antonias grandeur and its origins in Herods
fertile activities when he emphasized the pathos of the warring parties within the
temple precincts. (aaO., S. 264). Zur Aussageabsicht bei Josephus vgl. Vogel 2002,
22 (zu Ant. 14).
in 395.396.399. Damit wird auch der

Unterschied zu den frheren Bauten herausgestellt. Vgl. Lindner 2000. Siehe auch als
Hintergrund zu Joh 2:20.
So in Bell. 1:400 und beim Abschluss in Bell. 1:457466. Vgl. Ant. 15:380387.


gottfried schimanowski

und Ruhmes des ganzen Volkes, Herodes, der auf diese Weise als allen
anderen ebenbrtiger hellenistischer Herrscher charakterisiert wird.29
hnliches arbeitet auch die lngere Ansprache an die Brger Jerusalems
heraus (15: 382387).30 Seine eigene Bedeutung bertrifftwie schon
angedeutetden bisherigen Tempelbau nach dem Exil.31 Politisch
geschickt vermeidet Herodes es, die Erbauer des nachexilischen Heiligtums fr die gegenber dem ersten Tempel vernderten Dimensionen
verantwortlich zu machen; die Ursachen werden auf die politischen
Umstnde zurckgefhrt. Neben einer theologischen Begrndung
wird an dieser Stelle die besondere Beziehung zu den Rmern aufgezeigt (15:387),32 mit denen er durch eine lange Friedenszeit verbunden
war. Damit war der Bezug zur Gegenwart gegeben.

Die Schilderung des Tempels vor der Zerstrung (Bell. 5:184227)

Bei der Schilderung der Zerstrung Jerusalems beginnt Josephus
zunchst mit der Beschreibung der Stadt, bevor er zum Tempel und
seinen Gebuden bergeht. Schon bei der Schilderung der ueren Bedingungen des Gelndes sprengt die Erwartung den Rahmen
und wird dadurch ein Werk, das alle Erwartungen weit bertrifft
(5:187).33 Hier deutet sich an, dass Josephus mehr sagen will als eine
nchterne Schilderung der realen Gegebenheiten. Hier muss man die
Wege der traditionellen Exegese der Josephustexte verlassen und die
Texte von ihrem eigenen Anspruch her ernst nehmen. Damit werden
zwar die Unterschiede und Spannungen zu den Bemerkungen in den


Vgl. Ant. 16:153.

In hnlicher Funktion steht diese Beschreibung zum Gebude wie das Tempelgebet von Salomo.
Richardson 2004 fasst die Bedeutung und Eigenstndigkeit des Herodes und
seines Bauprogramms so zusammen: Herod could not have altered radically the
location or orientation of the naos, but he was freer to alter the configuration of the
hierons service facilities; he could enlarge the temenos and its stoai; he was free to
develop new functional appurtenances outside or adjacent to the temenos, such as
bridges and stairs. Some of the gates had liturgical associations; ritual provisions, such
as the Red Heifer ceremony, may have been relatively sensitive. (aaO., S. 281).
Zu Herodes und seine romfreundlichen Interessen vgl. Richardson 2004, 226:
Herod was a Romanophile. Some aspects of his buildings can only be compared to
and understood against the developments of Roman architecture.
. Vgl. hnlich kurz darauf Bell. 5:189 (ein
Werk, das alle Vorstellungen bertraf).

propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


Antiquitates34 nicht unwichtig; aber sie werden doch relativiert, weil

es Josephus gar nicht allein um eine objektive Beschreibung der Tempelanlage geht.35 Insgesamt ist zum Verstndnis dieser Stelle wichtig,
dass er in dem unmittelbaren Zusammenhang des Werkes die Bedeutung Herodes des Groen als Initiator und Motor der aktuellen riesigen Tempelanlage ganz und gar auen vorlsst, obwohl er natrlich
darum wei und sein Wissen zu Anfang durchaus anklingen lie.36
Hier erwhnt er aber nur Salomon als Erbauer (Bell. 5:185), und vor
allem unterstreicht er die Bedeutung fr das Volk (: 5:185;189
u..). Wahrscheinlich meint er damit die schon kurz vorher angesprochenen am Aufstand Unbeteiligten.37
Implizit werden die gewaltigen Dimensionen mit ihren symbolhaften Anspielungen bei der Schilderung des Tempels selbst sichtbar.
Zunchst wieder im Spiel mit den Zahlen, also implizit. So sind es 12
Stufen zum Tempel hinauf, die Vorderfront wird als Quadrat gezeichnet (100 Ellen). Wieder sind also die Befestigungen und Fundamente
der allererste Einstieg, nebst den ueren Bereichen des ganzen
Bezirks, einschlielich der Tore. Eine wichtige Rolle spielt auch die
Zentrierung des Gebudes auf eine zentrale Mitte. Gleich darauf gibt
Josephus eine erste Erklrung, die die Symbolhaftigkeit explizit zum
Ausdruck bringt, 5:208:38
Damit sollte nmlich zur Darstellungen gelangen, dass der Himmel,
obzwar verborgen, so doch nicht verschlossen ist.

Die Offenheit des Tempels schon an dieser Stelle am Eingang der Vorhalle symbolisiert und reprsentiert damit die Offenheit des Himmels.39
So, wie das Himmelgewlbe den himmlischen Sitz und Thron Gottes
von der irdischen Welt abgrenzt, so trennt ein Abbild des Himmels in
Z.B. zum Umfang des Tempelareals (Bell.: 6 Stadien; Ant.: 4 Stadien); die Tore
und Torflgel; die Hhe des Tempels usw.
Eine Zusammenstellung der jeweiligen Schwerpunkte in den Beschreibungen der
herodianischen Tempelarbeiten findet sich bei Richardson 2004, 272f.
Vgl. Bell. 1:401f; zum Ganzen Richardson 2004, 262.
So an der Stelle vorher Bell. 5:101 ( ) parallel zu
und (Bell. 5:102103).
. Zum Ausdruck
als Konjunktur vgl. die Textkritik.
Vgl. Hornung 1993, 225: Der Tempel ist ein Himmel auf Erden (der das
wirkende Bild der Gottheit enthlt). Wenn der Priester am Morgen die verschlossenen
Schreintren ffnet, macht er damit die Trflgel des Himmels auf und erblickt das
Abbild Gottes im irdischen Himmel. Gott selbst ist unzugnglich, aber durch den
Tempel wird ein Zugang geschaffen; vgl. Hartenstein 1997, passim.


gottfried schimanowski

der Form eines Vorhangs40 den irdischen Ort der Gegenwart Gottes,
das Tempelgebude als ganzes, von der brigen Welt ab. Im Tempel
werden also beide Dimensionen, Himmel und Erde, abgebildet.
Gleich darauf kommt es zu einem nchsten Sprung in der Argumentation. Der Tempel wird insgesamt als ein Abbild des Alls (
) verstanden. Konkret wird das durch den schon einmal
bemerkten Bezug zu den stoicheia ausgefhrt: Der (innere)Vorhang
des Tempels () wird verglichen mit den vier Elementen:
Feuer, Erde, Luft und Meer.41 Er reprsentiert das ganze sichtbare
Himmelsgewlbe (5:214). Der heilige Bereich wird damit von dem
Allerheiligsten lediglich durch einen Vorhang abgegrenzt.42 Himmel
und Erde sind damit getrennt, aber haben eine symbolische Kontaktstelle.43 Der ganze Kosmos ist so prsent, ohne dass das Bilderverbot
angetastet werden wrde.44
Josephus verdichtet diese Deutung nun, indem er den Besucher
einen Blick in das Innerste des Tempels werfen lsst. Neben den
wieder implizit nur symbolisch zu verstehenden Zahlenangaben der
Masse des Tempelgebudes finden Leuchter, Schaubrottisch und Rucheraltar Erwhnung. Die Lampen deuten wiederum auf einen himmlischen Bereichnun mit einer Siebenersymbolik,45 die Planeten und
insgesamt die Brote auf den Zodiak mit der Zwlfersymbolik.46
Schlielich wird auch der Rucheraltar mit den Elementen Luft,
Meer/Wasser, unbewohntes Land und gewohnte Erde zusammengebracht (5:218), damit deutlich wird: alles ist von Gott und
fr Gott.47 Damit schliet Josephus diese Beschreibung implizit

Hayward 1996, 145: The veil was evidently one of the most eye-catching and
memorable features of the Temple furniture.
Vgl. u. zum Begegnungszelt (Ant. 3:113; 126).
Vgl. u. zu Ant. 3; insgesamt Feldmeier 1993 und Hofius 1972, jeweils passim.
Vgl. bei Philon, der QE 2:91 (zu Ex 26:31a) den Vorhang als Scheidewand zwischen der vernderlichen und unvernderlichen Welt deutet.
Zur Kritik der Bilder am und im Tempel vgl. die sog. Adlerepisode Bell. 1:648
655 (Ant. 17:146163); vgl. den Exkurs III bei Michel/Bauernfeind (S. 425). Auch auf
Mnzen hat Herodes (Tier-) Bilddarstellungen bewusst vermieden (zu den Mnzen
vgl. Schrer, 312f). Zu den geometrischen Dekorationen, Rosetten, Efeuranken, Weinranken u.. vgl. Japp 2000, 129.
Anders Bell. 7:148f: die Wertschtzung der Sieben bei den Juden (Sabbatthematik?).
S.u. zu Ant. 3 und zum Priestergewand.
. Wasserbecken? Anderes fehlt ebenso wie ein

propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


mit einer weit verbreitetenbei den Stoikern schon beliebten

Allmachtsformel ab.48
Immer wieder wird deutlich, dass Josephus auf der einen Seite fr
Auenstehende seine Schilderung beabsichtigt.49 hnlich geht er auch
in dem spten Werk gegen Apion vor!50 Es ist deutlich, dass der Autor
bei dieser Schilderung schon den Verlust des Tempels voraussetzt. Soll
sein idealer Entwurf ein Stadium und Modell fixieren, nach dem spter
einmal ein neuer Tempel wieder aufgebaut werden soll? Das ist aber
eher unwahrscheinlich.51 Dies wird daran deutlich, wie sehr er sich bei
den Schilderungen der spteren Antiquitates an ein anderes Muster
hlt: die Symbolik spiegelt sich explizit nicht mehr an den einzelnen
Elementen des Tempels, sondern schon an denen im Vorgngerbau,
dem Begegnungszelt, womit wir den kleinen berblick abschlieen

Das Begegnungszelt in der Wste (Ant. 3:179187 [7:7])

Bezeichnend ist damit schon eine der ersten Erwhnungen bei der
Anfertigung des Zeltes. Nach der langen Abwesenheit des Mose ist das
Volk hoch erfreut, ihren Fhrer und Gesetzgeber wiederzuhaben. Es
ist bekannt, dass Josephus die Episode mit dem Goldenen Kalb vllig
bergeht.52 Er zieht die beiden Angaben aus Ex 24:18 und 34:28 ber
seine vierzigtgige Absenz zu einer einzigen festen Angabe zusammen
(Ant. 3:99).53 Als erste erlutert er dessen Fernbleiben mit dem gttlichen Auftrag, dem Volk seine politische und kulturelle Verfassung
() einzurichten (ebd.). Die Israeliten freuen sich ber den
gttlichen Auftrag am Sinai, einen Ort fr die Begegnung mit der
Gottheit anzufertigen, sie setzen sich mit allem, was sie besitzen ein,


Vgl. oft im NT Rm 11:36 (s. Schimanowski 1985, 340 und die Kommentare;
auch Norden 1932, 240ff).
Vgl. Bell. 5:223 .
Der Tempel ist mit rituellen Vorbedingen verknpft.
Vgl. die despektierliche uerung aus dem Mund von Zeloten, dass der (herodianische) Tempel sowieso schon dem Untergang geweiht sei (Bell. 5:458).
Ex. 32:710 sowie die darauf folgenden Verhandlungen und Gottesbegegnungen
(Ex. 32:1114 und 32:1535).
Die biblische Angabe der Zeit ohne Nahrung verwandelt Josephus als eine ohne
irdische Nahrung, was bedeutet, dass Mose eben auf dem Berg himmlische Nahrung zu sich genommen hat, ganz im Sinne einer rationalistischen Erklren der Vorgnge (nach dem Buch Exodus).


gottfried schimanowski

um den gttlichen Auftrag bereitwillig zu erfllen; denn an diesem

Ort (3:100)54
will Gott herabsteigen, so oft es ihm danach verlangt, bei ihnen zu

Es ist deutlich, Josephus zeichnet das Zelt ganz in die Bedingungen des
spteren Tempels ein,55 bis dahin, dass es nicht nur fr Mose, sondern
fr das ganze Volk der Ort ist, an dem Gott ihre Gebete entgegennimmt.
Das Zelt ist der bleibende Ort der Begegnung der Menschen mit Gott.
Wie bei dem spteren Tempel wird auch eine Reihe von Menschen
mit Namen genannt, die als Baumeister fungieren. So korrespondiert
allein schon die Einteilung des Zeltes insgesamt das Universum, den
Makrokosmos (3:123). Die entscheidenden Elemente weisen ber sich
hinaus.56 Das Zelt, bzw. der Tempel symbolisieren57 damit das Ganze
der Welt und ihre gute Ordnung. Letztlich ist hier ein Abbildungsverhltnis magebend, das Zelt Nachbildung und kunstvolle Darstellung
des Weltganzen (180: ).
Der apologetische Zug kommt dadurch zum Ausdruck, dass die Menschen objektiv () und mit Verstndnis ( ) an die
Konstruktion dieses Gebildes herangehen sollen.58 Der grte Bereich
ist allen Menschen zugnglich, so wie das Meer und die bewohnte
Erde,59 wogegen der Himmel und hier das Allerheiligste allein Gott


Als Parallele kann Sap. 13:5 gelten: von der Gre und Schnheit der Geschpfe
lsst sich auf ihren Schpfer schlieen.
Das Zelt als portabler Tempel (3:103) oder allgemein (3:125;139;142). Im
biblischen Kontext ist natrlich die Entsprechung zwischen dem irdischen und einem
himmlischen Heiligtum ( )entscheidend (Ex. 25:9; 40); dabei bleibt aber offen,
ob es sich um ein reales himmlisches Heiligtum handelt oder lediglich um einen Bauplan; vgl. Ego 2005, 169f. 1 Chr. 28:1119 sichert die Berechtigung des salomonischen
Tempelbaus theologisch ab durch die Bemerkung, David sei durch eine Schrift von
der Hand Gottes unterrichtet worden ( ;) vgl. Fabeck 2000, 38f (ebd.:
Insofern nhert sich die Vorstellung des Tempel-Tavnits der anderen atl. an, Gott
selbst habe den Tempel erbaut).
So z.B. auch die Ostung (3:115) und den Einfall der Sonnenstrahlen, die die
Gegenwart Gottes symbolisieren.
Vgl. die Terminologie von Abbildung und gleichen ( im
Abschnitt 3:181185 gleich fnfmal!).
Ein Zug, der z.B. fr Mose und Salomon grundstzlich kennzeichnend ist (Ant.
3:12; 8:49).
181: . Vgl. die Bemerkung 3:118, dass
die Proportionen der Sulen dem idealen Verhltnis entsprechen (

propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


vorbehalten bleibt. Vergleichspunkte von Gegenstnden sind wieder

die Planeten und kosmische Ordnungsgefge und Zeitraster.
Josephus wird nicht mde, weitere Beziehungen zur natrlichen
Welt herzustellen. So symbolisieren die vier Gewebematerialien der
Kleidung des Hohenpriesters und ihre Farben die vier Elemente: Erde,
Wasser/Meer, Luft und Feuer. Neben der Kostbarkeit und Schnheit
weist das Ganze auf die Schpfung und den Schpfer, Ant. 3:184:60
Die Kleidung des Hohenpriesters ( = vgl. Ant. 3:162) gleicht
der Natur des Alls ( ), was Gott das beste zu sein
schien, wenn es aus den vier Elementen besteht (

Der gttliche Ursprung und der gttliche Wille wird so mit den
Bereichen des Kultes zusammengebracht: die ganze Welt, die Planeten,
Sonne und Mond, erblickt der Zuschauer im Tempelgottesdienst, seinen Elementen und Akteuren in ihrem unwiderstehlichen Glanz. Das
ist in diesem Zusammenhang weit mehr als die Bemerkung, dass alle
Dinge ihre Ordnung haben in bereinstimmung mit der Natur des
Universums, wie es zu Beginn der Antiquitates hie.61 Gleichzeitig
ist im Tempelkult alles auf eine Mitte konzentriert, letztlich somit den
Mittelpunkt62 der ganzen Welt symbolisierend, ein Gedanke, der den
biblischen Autoren gut vertraut war.63 So wie spter Jerusalem, bzw.
das Tempelareal als zentraler und erhhter Mittelpunkt des Landes, ja
der ganzen Welt, erscheint, so entspricht hier das Zelt in Aufbau und
Ordnung mikroskopisch dem Makrokosmos.64 Hier findet sich fr die
ganze Welt der Garant allen Heils.

Schon im Aristeasbrief symbolisiert die Kleidung des Hohenpriesters gewissermaen den Kosmos (Arist. 9698) mit der Schlussbemerkung: Der Anblick dieser
Dinge flt Ehrfurcht und Entsetzen ein ( ), so dass man glauben knnte, an einem anderen Ort auerhalb der Welt gelangt zu sein (
) . . . Darber hinaus wird die Dicke, Unberwindlichkeit der Mauer und ihre Bewachung herausgestellt (Arist. 100102).
Ant. 1:24 . Der Begriff
der wird aber bei Josephus durchaus auch kritischund in Spannung zur
Oft als Superlativ von = .
Vgl. das Stichwort vom Nabel der Welt, Tilly 2002 (zu Josephus vor allem
192f). Der geozentrische berzeugung wird ganz natrlich vorausgesetzt (3:185):
. Vgl. von Jerusalem Bell. 3:52 = .
Zu den anders ausgerichteten Schilderungen des Tempels wie z.B. frher bei
Ezechiel, in Qumran wie in 11 QTempl. oder in der Mischna vgl. Richardson 2004,


gottfried schimanowski

Ganz hnlich versucht auch Philon die jdische Kultur in die Gesetze
der Natur und Schpfung einzuzeichnen. Ich kann diese Zusammenhnge nur kurz andeuten; sie wrden eine eigene Untersuchung ausmachen.65 Aber auch Philon bezieht sich immer wieder einmal bei der
Beschreibung des Jerusalemer Kultes und vor allem bei der Kleidung
des Hohen Priesters auf die Schpfung und ihre weltbestimmende
Gesetzmigkeit. Wenn auch der Tempel und seine Architektur nur im
Zusammenhang seiner sog. politischen Traktate ins Blickfeld rcken,66
so werden doch immer wieder in den Ausfhrungen zu den jdischen
Gesetzen die Zusammenhnge mit der Natur herausgestellt.
Die ganze Rhetorik und Interessenleitung, auf die schon Helgo
Lindner hingewiesen hatte, wird bei Josephus deutlich durch Aufbau und Struktur der Darstellung des Baus und der Erweiterung des
Tempels durch Herodes. Schon die Rede an das Volk, das von dieser
Manahme berzeugt werden soll, ist konstruiert und wird propagandistischen Zwecken gedient haben. Unvorstellbar, dass der Herrscher
mit seinen Worten auf die Einwnde und Befrchtungen der Zuhrer eingegangen sein soll: ein demokratisches Vorgehen, das zu dem
sonstigen Verhalten des Monarchen in aufflliger Spannung steht.67
Mglich ist durchaus, dass Josephus mit diesen Angaben Herodes als
einen neuen Salomo erscheinen lsst, ganz in dem Sinne wie das erste
Chronikbuch von dessen Baumanahmen berichtet.68
Insgesamt kann man als einen ersten Grund fr die Bedeutung des
Tempels die eigene priesterliche Seite des Autors fest machen.69 Das
scheint mir aber nicht zu gengen, wenn man den Tempel selbst noch

Zum Zusammenhang zwischen Philon und Josephus vgl. Hayward 1996, 8f:
both authors appear on occasion to be dependent on earlier Jewish tradition which
had already adopted a cosmic interpretation of the Temple and its furniture (. . .) It
is quite possible that both men were motivated by the need to offer an apologetic for
Jewish religion, and found in the cosmic, universal aspects of the Temple Service a
useful response to Gentile misunderstandings or calumnies.
So vor allem im Zusammenhang mit der Absicht von Gaius Caligula, das Bilderverbot durch seine Statue zu verletzen, Legat. 117f u..; vgl. das Stichwort vom Krieg
verbunden mit der Bewunderung des herodianischen Tempels (Legat. 119;198;208).
Zum Ganzen vgl. Schimanowski 2006, 192200.
Lindner 2002, 154.
Ebd. S. 156. Zum ambivalenten Herodesbild vgl. Vogel 2002, 17f. Ganz hnlich
urteilt auch Japp 2000, 29: Herodes stellte sich mit seinem Bauprogramm gezielt in
die Tradition des Knigs Salomon. Bezeichnend ist dafr, dass Herodes auch die traditionell auf Salomo zurckgehende stliche Stoa in die Umsetzung seiner Umbauten
programmatisch einschloss.
Vgl. ebd. 159f.

propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


einmal mit dem Vorgngermodell des Zeltes in Beziehung setzt. Das ist
gewiss nur eine der verschiedenen Mglichkeiten der Interpretation.70
Es fllt auf, wie oft und gezielt Josephus in diesem Zusammenhang
auf die Lesenden eingeht, so dass man den Eindruck gewinnen kann,
er wrde sich in erster Linie an AuenstehendeNichtjudenwenden.71 Auf jeden Fall ist diesen eine solche hintergrndige Symbolik
mit Bezug auf das Universum wohl vertraut.

Schluss und Zusammenfassung

Vor allem bei der allerersten Beschreibung des Zeltes in der Wste
benutzt Josephus ausfhrlich die Symbolkraft der Vergleiche mit Natur,
Universum und Weltordnung. Das Zelt und seine Symbolik stehen
gleichzeitig fr den Tempel in Jerusalem. Das ist auf der einen Seite
eine grundlegende Entfaltung dessen, was er auch an spterer Stelle
allgemein fr den Tempel und seine Bedeutung voraussetzt. Andererseits kann er bei dem Zelt nicht die Hintergrndigkeit der Tore,
Tempelaufgnge und Einblicke des groen Tempelareals mit einbeziehen, so dass er an dieser Stelle grundstzlich fr andere symbolische
Inhalte offen sein muss und kann, unter anderem auch deswegen, weil
er voraussetzt, dass seine Leser mit diese Symbolkraft wohl vertraut
sind und diese fr sie einsichtig ist.
Das Faszinosum des Heiligen will er ihnen auf diese Weise nher
bringen und so ist sicher nicht ausgeschlossen, dass er dabei auch
seine eminente Kompetenz als Priester und Kenner der heiligen Traditionen seines Volkes durchblicken lsst. Schlielich ist er dafr von
den Rmern als attraktive Persnlichkeit und wertvoller Informant
anerkannt und in die Freiheit entlassen worden, eine Wertschtzung
von auen, die bei seinen Landsleuten allerdings Neider hervorbrachte
und auf Dauer Skepsis und Misstrauen hervorrufen musste.

Die messianische Auslegung bei Lindner (ebd.) berzeugt mich dagegen an dieser Stelle nicht.
Vgl. Hayward 1996, 152: (Josephus) explains to his non-Jewish readers that the
worship offered in Jerusalem had a beneficial effect fort he whole world: perhaps he
implies that the destruction of the sanctuary augurs no good for the future.


gottfried schimanowski

1. Quellen (zu Josephus)

Michel, Otto and Otto Bauernfeind (Hg.). 19621969. Flavius JosephusDe Bello
Judaico. Der jdische Krieg. 3 Bde. Mnchen: Ksel-Verlag.
Siegert, Folker (Hg.). 2008. ber die Ursprnglichkeit des Judentums. Contra Apionem. 2 Bde. Schriften des Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum 6,12. Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Siegert, Folker, Schreckenberg, Heinz und Manuel Vogel. 2001. Kritische Ausgabe,
bersetzung und Kommentar. Flavius JosephusAus meinem Leben (Vita). Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Thackery, Henry St John. 19631969. Josephus. 9 Bde. (LCL), Cambridge: Harvard
University Press.
2. Sekundrliteratur
Aadna, Jostein. 1999. Jerusalemer Tempel und Tempelmarkt im 1. Jahrhundert n.Chr.
Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Bauckham, Richard. 1996. Josephus Account of the Temple in Contra Apionem
2.102109. Seiten 327347 in Josephus Contra Apionem: Studies in its Character
and Context with a Latin Concordance to the Portion Missing in Greek. AGAJU 34.
Herausgegeben von Louis H. Feldman und John R. Levison. Leiden: Brill.
Begg, Christopher T. 2005. Translation and Commentary. Flavius JosephusJudean
Antiquities Books 57 (IV). Leiden: Brill.
Busink, Theodor A. 19701980. Der Tempel von Jerusalem von Salomo bis Herodes:
Eine archologisch-historische Studie unter Bercksichtigung des Westsemitischen
Tempelbaus. 2 Bde. Leiden: Brill.
Ego, Beate. 1989. Im Himmel wie auf Erden: Studien zum Verhltnis von himmlischer und irdischer Welt im rabbinischen Judentum. WUNT 2, 34. Tbingen: Mohr
, Lange, Armin und Peter Pilhofer (Hg.). 1999. Gemeinde ohne Tempel: zur Substituierung und Transformation des Jerusalemer Tempels und seines Kults im Alten
Testament, antiken Judentum und frhen Christentum. WUNT 118. Tbingen:
Mohr Siebeck.
. 2005. Denkbilder fr Gottes Einzigkeit, Herrlichkeit und Richtermacht
Himmelsvorstellungen im antiken Judentum. JBTh 20: 151188.
Fabeck, Gabriele. 2000. Der Tempel der Christen: Traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur Aufnahme des Tempelkonzepts im frhen Christentum. TANZ 33.
Tbingen: Francke.
Feldman, Louis H. 2000. Translation and Commentary. Flavius JosephusJudean
Antiquities 14 (III). Leiden: Brill.
Feldmeier, Reinhard. 1993. Der Gekreuzigte im Gnadenstuhl. Exegetische berlegungen zu Mk 15,3739 und deren Bedeutung fr die Vorstellung der gttlichen
Gegenwart und Herrschaft. Seiten 213232 in Le Trne de Dieu. Herausgegeben
von Marc Philonenko. WUNT 69. Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Foerster, Gideon. 1976. Art and Architecture in Palestine. Seiten 9711006 in The Jewish People in the First Century (II). Herausgegeben von Shemuel Safrai und Menahem Stern. Assen: Van Gorcum.
Hahn, Johannes (Hg.). 2002. Zerstrung des Jerusalemer Tempels. WUNT 147. Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Han, Kyu Sam. 2002. Jerusalem and the Early Jesus Movement: The Q Communitys
Attitude Towards the Temple. JSNTS 207. London: Sheffield Academic Press.

propaganda, fiktion und symbolik


Hartenstein, Friedhelm. 1997. Die Unzugnglichkeit Gottes im Heiligtum: Jesaja 6 und

der Wohnort JHWHs in der Jerusalemer Kulttradition. WMANT 75. NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.
Hayward, Charles Thomas Robert. 1996. The Jewish Temple: A non-biblical Sourcebook. London: Routledge.
Hengel, Martin. 1999 (first published in 1994). Jerusalem, als jdische und hellenistische Stadt. Seiten 115156 in ders. Judaica, Hellenistica et Christiana. Kleine Schriften II. WUNT 109. Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Hofius, Otfried. 1972. Der Vorhang vor dem Thron Gottes. WUNT 14. Tbingen:
Mohr Siebeck.
Hornung, Erich. 1993 (fifth edition). Der Eine und die Vielen: gyptische Gottesvorstellungen. Darmstadt: Wissenschftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Japp, Sarah. 2000. Die Baupolitik Herodes des Groen: die Bedeutung der Architektur
fr die Herrschaftslegitimation eines rmischen Klientelknigs. Rahden: M. Leidorf.
Jonquire, Tessel. 2002. Two Prayers by King Solomon in Josephus Antiquities 8 and
the Bible. Seiten 7289 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Paris 2001. Herausgegeben von Folker Siegert. MJSt 12. Mnster: Lit.
Keel, Othmar und Erich Zenger (Hg.). 2002. Gottesstadt und Gottesgarten: Zu
Geschichte und Theologie des Jerusalemer Tempels. QD 191. Freiburg: Herder.
Kokkinos, Nikos. 1998. The Herodian Dynasty: Origin, Role in Society and Eclipse.
JSPSuppl 30. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Levenson, Jon D. 1984. The Temple and the World. Journal of Religion 64:275298.
Lichtenberger, Achim. 1999. Die Baupolitik Herodes des Groen. Abhandlungen des
Deutschen Palstina-Vereins 26. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Lindner, Helgo. 1972. Die Geschichtsauffassung des Flavius Josephus im Bellum Judaicum. AGAJ 12. Leiden: Brill.
. 2002. Der Bau des greren Tempels (A 15:380390): Herodianische Propaganda
und Josephus Auffassung der jdischen Geschichte. Seiten 152160 in Internationales Josephus-Kolloquium Paris 2001. Herausgegeben von Folker Siegert. MJSt 12.
Mnster: Lit.
Norden, Eduard und Agnostos Theos. 1923. Untersuchungen zur Formengeschichte
religiser Rede. Leipzig: Teubner.
Reidinger, Erwin. 2002. Die Tempelanlage in Jerusalem von Salomo bis Herodes aus
der Sicht der Bautechnischen Archologie. Biblische Notizen NF 114/115:89150.
. 2006. Der Tempel in Jerusalem: Datierung nach der Sonne. Biblische Notizen
NF 128:81104.
Richardson, Peter. 2004. Building Jewish in the Roman East. SJSJ 92. Waco, Texas:
Baylor University Press.
Robertson, Stuart Dumber. 1991. The account of the ancient Israelite tabernacle and
first priesthood in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus (A 3:99207). Ph.D.
Thesis. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI.
Roller, Duane W. 1998. The Building Program of Herod the Great. Berkley: University
of California Press.
Safrai, Smuel. 1976. The Temple. Seiten 865907 im The Jewish People in the First
Century (II). Herausgegeben von Shemuel Safrai und Menahem Stern. Assen: Van
Sanders, Ed Parish. 1992. Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 bce66 ce. London: SCM
Schimanowski, Gottfried. 1985. Weisheit und Messias: Die jdischen Vorraussetzungen
der urchristlichen Prexistenzchristologie. WUNT 2,17. Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
. 2006. Juden und Nichtjuden in Alexandrien: Koexistenz und Konflikte bis zum
Pogrom unter Trajan (117 n.Chr.). MJSt 18. Mnster: Lit.
Schlatter, Adolf von. 1932. Die Theologie des Judentums nach dem Bericht des Josefus.
BFCT 2,26. Gtersloh: C. Bertelsmann.


gottfried schimanowski

Schrer, Emil. 1979. History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. rev. and ed.
by Geza Vermes, Edinburgh: Clark.
Seters, John van. 1997. Solomons Temple: Fact and Ideology in Biblical and Near
Eastern Historiography. CBQ 59:4557.
Spilsbury, Paul. 1998. The Image of the Jew in Flavius Josephus Paraphrase of the Bible.
TSAJ 69. Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Tilly, Michael. 2002. JerusalemNabel der Welt. berlieferung und Funktionen von
Heiligtumstraditionen im antiken Judentum, Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.
Vogel, Manuel. 2002. Herodes: Knig der Juden, Freund der Rmer (Biblische Gestalten). Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt.
Weippert, Helga. 1998. Altisraelitische Welterfahrung: Die Erfahrung von Raum und
Zeit nach dem Alten Testament. Seiten 934 in Ebenbild GottesHerrscher ber die
Welt: Studien zu Wrde und Auftrag des Menschen. (BThS 33). Herausgegeben von
Hans-Peter Mathys. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener.


Daniel R. Schwartz

Introduction: Dating The Judean War and Its Last Book

The basic parameters for the dating of Josephus Judean War are clear
and stated in any number of handbooks.1 On the one hand, the last
event mentioned in it is the foundation of the Temple of Peace in
Rome (War 7.158), whichas we learn from Cassius Dio 66.15came
in 75 ce. On the other hand, Josephus reports explicitly in his Against
Apion (1.5051), and implies in his Life (361), that he completed his
work in the lifetime of Vespasian and gave him a copy. Vespasian died
in June 79. Accordingly, the book was completed no earlier than 75 ce
and no later than mid-79 ce.
However, this basic and clear picture has been called into question from a few directions. First, in the seventies, Menahem Stern and
Shaye J. D. Cohen drew attention to the prominence of and praise for
Titus in the War.2 Although this is not so surprising, given the fact
that the book focuses on the fall of Jerusalem and it was Titus, not
Vespasian, who saw to that, nevertheless the way Titus so overshadows
Vespasian, and the way Vespasian even seems at times to serve as a
foil for Titus,3 seem to point to a date under Titus, after Vespasians
death. Both of those scholars, moreover, pointed out that Josephus, in
the War (4.634644), condemns Aulus Alienus Caecina, who began
as a hero under Vespasian (and so Vespasian flattered himTacitus,
Hist. 2.101.1) but became a traitor late in Vespasians days (Cassius
Dio 66.16.3; Suetonius, Titus 6). Josephus treatment of Caecina
apparently requires us either to squeeze the War into the very end of


See, for example, Schrer 1973, 4748; Bilde 1988, 79; Rajak 2002, 195, n. 23.
Stern 1991; Cohen 1979, 8486.
See Stern 1991, 40607.


daniel r. schwartz

Vespasians tenure, as Rajak suggests,4 oras was already suggested

by Titus prominenceto move the books terminus ad quem down
from Vespasians death in 79 to Titus in 81. Accordingly, if Josephus
claims he presented a copy of the War to Vespasian, perhaps he was
either lying or referring only to a part of the work. That Josephus at
least in some cases distributed his War book by book, as completed,
emerges clearly from his Life 365, where Agrippa II reports on reading
Josephus book and asks him to send him the other ones, just as
Agrippas letter cited ibid. 366 treats what he had read of the War as
work in progress. Indeed, the very fact that Josephus says that it was
Titus who ordered the publication of the War with public funding
(Life 363)5 seems to indicate that the work was completed only after
Vespasians death.
Second, both Stern and Cohen also noted the special prominence
of Domitian in the seventh, and final book of the War (7.37, 8588,
152). This might indicate an even later origin for the War as a whole,
or, at least, for its last book. Stern shied away from that conclusion
(just as later he retracted his earlier tendency to dating the body of the
work under Titus),6 but Cohen confidently built upon it to establish
a Domitianic dating for War 7,7 bolstering the basic consideration
the hyping of Domitianwith two additional considerations: (a) a few
scholars have pointed out that the Greek style of War 7 is different,
and poorer, than that of the rest of the work;8 (b) the way that John of
Gischala is denigrated in 7.264, as a violator of Jewish law, is typical of
See Rajak, as above, n. 1. Her argument is based on the premise that Caecinas
treason might not have been as late as is usually assumed; so too already Stern (below,
end of n. 6). For some recent support, arguing that it in fact may have come in 78 ce,
perhaps a year or more prior to the death of Vespasian, see Barnes 2005, 13738.
For the use of or to indicate publication at public expense,
see Mason 1974, 35, s.v. , 4 (which cites Ant. 13.265; see also 16.164).
For Sterns insistencerejecting a brief suggestion by H. Dessau (PIR1 II, 35,
no. 189, that the War was completed under Domitian propter mentiones eius
honorificasthat nothing in the Wars references to Domitian requires a date later
than the days of Vespasian or Titus, see Stern 1991, 403. For Sterns eventual return
to a Vespasianic dating for the whole work, see Stern 1987, 7879, n. 9.
If BJ 16 was completed under Titus, BJ 7 is Domitianic (Cohen 1979, 87).
Cohen was followed by Attridge 1984, 19293.
For this impression Cohen cites Thackeray 1929, 35 and 105, and Michaelson and
Morton 1973, esp. 4142 and 52. The latter noted that is elided significantly less
frequently in War 7 than in the rest of the work, while Thackeray offered more general
observations: War 7 has a large admixture of phraseology characteristic of the Antiquities and less indication of help from the authors able assistants . . . This evidence
suggests that Book vii, in whole or in part, may have been added later (p. 35).

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


Josephus later works and not of the War itself, which instead focuses
on violations of the cult by John and other villains.9 However, it is not
clear what might be implied by the stylistic consideration, and as for
the latter consideration, about lawsince it builds on one passage
of War 7 alone, it cannot carry very much weight. Understandably,
Cohen left the matter somewhat open, concluding his brief discussion
by noting that The relationship of BJ 7 to BJ 16 clearly needs further
study. In particular we should like to know when BJ was written, and
why Josephus wrote it.10
That desideratum was picked up a few years later by Seth Schwartz,
who devoted a 1986 article to The Composition and Publication of
Josephus Bellum Iudaicum book 7.11 Here, after restating Cohens
observations, and adding one of his own about the somewhat hodgepodge composition of book 7, which contrasts with the better organized first six books of the work, he adds and details a new and very
specific argument. Namely, book 7 ends with the death of someone
Josephus describes as Catullus, the governor of the Lybian pentapolis (7.439), and Schwartzadopting an earlier suggestion12argued
that this person is to be identified with L. Valerius Catullus Messalinus, who was consul in 73 ce and a close friend of Domitian and
Nerva, whose death came no earlier than 93 ce, as is shown by Tacitus, Agricola 4445. According to Schwartzs suggested reconstruction
of events, he was praetor in the 60s, praetorian proconsul of CreteCyrenaica in 72, consul ordinarius in 73, and so on.13
Schwartzs suggestion seems to have elicited little interest for many
years, but the past few years have seen three prominent scholars rejecting it. In 2002, just a year after Steve Mason registered in brief his
approval of Schwartzs identification of Catullus and the same year
Tessa Rajak noted her acceptance of the conclusion that War 7 was
completed under Domitian,14 Christopher P. Jones published an article
See also below, n. 34. For the later Josephus focus upon law rather than cult, see
also my comments on the comparison of War 1.145150 to Ant. 14.6367 in Schwartz
1999, 35.
Cohen 1979, 89, n. 12.
Schwartz 1986, 37386.
Ritterling 1927, 29 (Josephus Catullus is perhaps to be identified with L. Valerius Catullus Messalinus, consul in ad 73).
Schwartz 1986, 376.
Mason 2001, 169; Rajak 2002, xiii (alluding to Menahem Sterns demonstration
that the seventh and last book of the Jewish War, visibly separate from the reset, was
almost certainly produced not under Titus but under the emperor Domitian [but


daniel r. schwartz

on the chronology of Josephus works that mentioned Schwartzs article just as briefly, rejecting it out of hand and adhering to a terminus
ad quem under Titus for the whole book.15 Then, in 2005, Hannah
M. Cotton and Werner Eck gave the identification of Catullus serious attention and, on the basis of three arguments, rejected Schwartzs
suggestion quite decidedly, and their arguments were accepted as final
by T. D. Barnes.16 I too will state, at the outset, that I accept Cottons
and Ecks conclusion that Josephus Catullus cannot be identical with
the ordinary consul of 73 ce.17 Whenever Josephus Catullus was proconsul of Crete-Cyrene in the early 70s, it is unreasonable to imagine
that he could have become ordinary consul so soon thereafter. Moreover, as Eck added in a letter to me, it is unreasonable to suppose that
a patrician such as L. Valerius Catullus Messalinus would have taken,
in the first place, so low a position as that proconsulship.
However, Cotton and Eck do not claim that their rejection of
Schwartzs identification of Catullus disproves his basic thesis that
War 7 is later than the rest of the book; these are two separate issues,
and they do not address the dating of War 7. Indeed, Barnes, who
follows Cotton and Eck in rejecting Schwartzs identification of Josephus Catullus, himself argues, following Cohen, that War 16 was
completed under Titus and War 7, given its treatment of Domitian,
under the latter.18 In what follows, I will add my own arguments, based
first upon the Wars table of contents and then upon the Catullus episodes attitudes toward religion and state, divine providence, and the
portrayal of the death of persecutors. All of these arguments support
the thesis that at least the Catullus episode is a late addition to War.

her allusion to Stern, rather than Schwartz or Cohen, was a slip of the pen; see above,
n. 6]).
That is, Jones adheres to Sterns original opinion (above, n. 2). See Jones 2002,
11314. Jones mentions only one argument against Schwartzs suggestion (the first of
Cottons and Ecks; see our Appendix I), makes no reference to Schwartzs rebuttal in
anticipation of it or to any of Schwartzs other arguments, but nevertheless concludes
his brief discussion with the verdict that Schwartzs identification of Catullus has
nothing else to recommend it.
Cotton and Eck 2005, 4648; Barnes 2005, 139, n. 18.
While I accept their conclusion, parts of their argument are less than cogent; see
the appendices to this paper.
See Barnes 2005, 13940.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


Table of Contents
The first argument is simply the fact that the summary of the Wars
contents that Josephus supplies in his prologue to the War (1929)
gives no indication of much of what concludes book 7, including the
Catullus episode.19 As perusal of any minimally annotated edition of
the prologue will show, it offers up to 1.28 a fairly detailed account of
the topics to be covered up to and including the end of book 6, but
then offers only one more paragraph (1.29) to summarize what is left of
the work: how the Romans crushed the last remnants of the war and
demolished the local fortresses; how Titus paraded the whole country
and restored order; and lastly his return to Italy and triumph.20 Josephus account of Titus triumph concludes at 7.162, leaving the next
293 paragraphs of book 7 unrepresented in this table of contents. And
even if, despite the disproportion in comparison to the rest of the table
of contents21 and despite its disorder as compared to the book itself
(where Titus return to Rome and his triumph precede the reduction
of the surviving fortresses) we were to consent to view the first part of
1.29 as covering the accounts in 7.163218, 252406 of the reduction of the last remnants of Jewish rebellion in Palestine, including the
Masada story, that would still leave out not only the stories in 219251
about Romes relations with Commagene and the Scythians, an omission which would not be very surprising given the extraneous nature
of that material, but also the very pertinent Jewish material offered in
407455 (end of the book), including first Josephus account of the
rebellions aftermath for the Jews of Egypt (407436) and then our
story about Catullus and Cyrene. This is all quite difficult to explain
unless we assume book 7 was significantly supplemented and reworked
after Josephus first completed the work and prepared its prologue. That
is, it seems that our version of the War is not its earliest version, which
might have ended with Titus triumpha totally fitting ending for a
war-monograph in service of the new monarchy.22

As McLaren remarked with only a modicum of overstatement, in concluding
his detailed review of the prologues table of contents (McLaren 1998, 79): the only
substantial part of the narrative not cited in this list is the subject matter of War 7.
Thackerays Loeb translation.
The table of contents (War 1.1929) fills 55 lines in Nieses edition, but of these
only 3.5 (29) are devoted to Book 7around a sixteenth, rather than a seventh.
On the Kriegsmonographie (F. Jacobys term) see Geiger 1983/84, 56 (in Hebrew).
For the function of the triumph in establishing the new dynasty, see esp. Beard 2003.


daniel r. schwartz
Religion and State

According to the Wars Catullus story, one Jonathan the Weaver and
his followers, who had gone into the Cyrenian wilderness on the basis
of his promise that they would there see signs and apparitions, were
unarmed (War 7.440). But that is in fact unlikely, for if they were
unarmed why were they considered such a threat by the Roman governor, who sent out the cavalry and infantry against them, killing many
of them and imprisoning the others? And, in any case, Josephus other
account of this episode, in Life 424, has them being armed. Rather, as
we have shown elsewhere,23 this denial that such desert prophets were
armed is a typically Josephean way of separating religion from state,
thus making Judeans appear to be Diaspora Jews: religious figures
do not take up arms, and those who take up arms are not religious.24
However, this is typical of Josephus in the Antiquities, written in the
nineties, not in the War. Note, for a prime example, the comparison
of Josephus accounts of the Egyptian prophet in the days of Felix, who
led Sicarii into the desert (Acts 21:38): War 2.262 has him planning
to attack Jerusalem, massacre the Roman garrison, and rule the city
himself, while Ant. 20.170 has him, apparently unarmed, planning to
make the walls of Jerusalem fall by his own order. That is, in this case
as elsewhere in the War, Josephus has no problem about admitting
that Jewish rebels claimed a religious agenda (although he condemns
it), but in the Antiquities he does his best to hide that fact. But he does
that in the Catullus story too.

Divine Providence
At the end of the Catullus story (7.453) we read that his sufferings, from
which he died, were testimony, second to none other, to the providence of God, Who imposes justice upon the wicked. (
). Of this we would like to note the following:


See Schwartz 1992, 2934 and Schwartz 1999, 34.

And the latter tack is indeed the one Josephus took in his account of Jonathan
in his Life 424425: Jonathan is armed but not religious, nothing being said of any
promised signs and apparitions.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


First, given the fact that this is the last line of the War, prior to the
final paragraph which opens, immediately thereafter, with Here is the
end of our history . . . (7.454), one would expect it to be the bottom
line of the book and, somehow, to conclude a theme announced earlier in the book. Compare, for example, the last sentence of Philos In
Flaccum, which states that the wicked governors suffering proved that
Gods succor had not been withdrawn from the Jews. That corresponds
quite well with the fact that the whole latter half of In Flaccum, beginning in 102, is dedicated to showing how divine justice intervened to
restore the Jews fortunes and punish the villain. In Josephus War, in
contrast, no such theme has been announced or developed. But it is
a very prominent theme of Josephus Antiquities, as especially H. A.
Attridge has demonstrated.25
Second, it is not only the case that proof of Gods providential
administration of the world is not an appropriate bottom line for the
War. Rather, a check of the War reveals that it is very rare indeed for
Josephus to attribute anything to Gods providence so simply as he
does in 7.453. In fact, he does it only once: in 4.219 he has John of
Gischala, who is the books arch villain, claiming that it was by Gods
providence ( ) that he had been sent to the Zealots
to negotiate, as it were, on behalf of Ananus; this allowed him easily
to betray Ananus to the Zealots. This is clearly a parody: the books
arch-villain explains his being positioned to betray one of the books
heroes as a result of divine providence.
Otherwise, Josephus references to pronoia in the War fall into a
few other categories:
a. In three cases, Josephus uses pronoia in verbal phrases meaning to
take care of 1.308, 4.317, 5.33.
b. In three others, pronoia appears in phrases meaning see as his own
responsibility1.354, 2.389, 3.370.
c. Moving closer to what we are seeking, in several cases pronoia
refers to human forethought5.121, 316, 534; 7.192, 223, 304as
does all Wars use of the verb 1.75, 299, 395, 588; 2.304,
620; 5.316, 484; 7.94).

See Attridge 1976, 71107. For the discontinuity between the War (which
speaks of fate, fortune and necessity) and the Antiquities (which speaks of
providence) see ibid. 154. The relevance of this point for our topic was already noted
in brief by S. Schwartz 1986, 374, n. 5.


daniel r. schwartz

d. In one case something is said to have happened due to the pronoia

of a daimon: at 1.82, it was that blood was spilled
precisely where a murder had taken place.
e. In all the other places, however, where Josephus refers to things
happening due to a daimons pronoia, he avoids committing himself to this, settling instead for more qualified statements:
2.457: Things happened in Caesarea at the same time as in Jerusalem, as if due to the pronoia of a daimon (
4.622: Vespasian was led to think (
) that things happened in his favor not without the pronoia
of a daimon.
7.82: Vespasian wrote Cerealius as if due to the pronoia of a
daimon ( )
7.318At Masada the wind turned against the Jews as if due to
the pronoia of a daimon ( ).
Indeed, such references to daimonic providence are fundamental
to the books structure, for the three major turning points of the
warthe fall of the north, of Jerusalem, and of Masadaall occur
as if due to a daimonic force that intervened to the Jews detriment, making the wind turn against the Jews at Gamala (4.76) and
Masada (7.318) and inciting a Roman soldier to disobey his orders
and throw the fateful torch into the Temple (6.252).
f. This leaves only a mere seven passages where the War refers to
the pronoia of Godand in all of them, apart from 4.219 and our
7.453, discussed above, Josephus shies away from committing himself unambiguously to the attribution:
At 1.593 it seems Pheroras wife was saved by Gods pronoia
( ).
At 3.28 Nigers reappearance gladdened Jews as if Gods pronoia
had preserved him for them ( ).
At 3.144 Vespasian thought Josephus entry into Jotapata was
due to Gods pronoia ( . . . ).
At 3.391 Josephus came out last in the lottery in the cave at Jotapata, whether we should say due to fortune, or, rather, due to
the pronoia of God ( ,

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


And at 4.366 the Roman generals thought the Jews disunity was a
god-send and said that Gods pronoia had been their ally (
. . . ).
Thus, Josephus practice, in the War, with regard to attributing things
to Gods providence, is just like his practice with regard to daimonic providence: he reflects the notion but doesnt commit to it. This
conforms to the fact that it is very clear that, in War, Josephus identified God as the real power in the world, even when he uses daimonlanguage.26 Note, for example, that of the three turning-points of War
mentioned above (e), in the latter two cases Josephus explicitly says, in
adjacent passages, that it was God (theos) who was pulling the strings:
see 6.250 and 7.319.27 But although he did name God that way (theos)
at times, he usually preferred other locutions, such as tyche or daimon
or to theion (the divine), more in conformance with habits of his
Roman audience. Moreover, taking the high ground of a rational historian, he avoids speaking directly about divine providence, preferring
to hedge by speaking of what happened as if by it or what people
thought was caused by it. Both practicesuse of daimon instead of
theos and avoiding direct declarative statements about the involvement
of divine providenceapparently are so characteristic of Josephus, in
the War, that they leave 4.219 and 7.453 in need of explanation.
Concerning 4.219 the issue is not difficult: by letting John of Gischala speak plainly of divine providence supporting him Josephus just
reinforces his own case that John was a villain. Josephus has not signed
onto the statement, of course, and instead he leaves it as a hypocritical, even blasphemous attempt of a villain to justify his own treasonous behavior. But 7.453 is indeed Josephus own declarative statement
about Gods providence being responsible for the righteous punishment of Catullus; how shall we explain it?
In search of such an explanation we should note that in contrast
to Josephus practice in the War, straightforward formulations about

On Josephus daimon-language, and its relationship to God, see Villalba i
Varneda 1986, 4546.
In the case of Gamala, in contrast, the closest we come to such a statement
is that when at one point the rebels got the better of the Romans they supposed
() it was due to Gods assistance. This evidently indicates that Josephus
thought they were wrong, just as elsewhere too he portrays overly confident rebels
drawing such wrong conclusions from passing successes (War 2.539; 4.342; Life 24,


daniel r. schwartz

Gods providence causing something to happen, as at War 7.453, are

absolutely routine in Josephus three books of the nineties. Rengstorf s
Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus (3.538540) lists, for Antiquities, more than thirty cases of something happening due to Gods
providence, most of them made as simple declarative statements.28 As
especially Attridge has noted (see n. 25), they are very much part of
the basic agenda of Antiquities, announced already in the preface as
the main lesson of the book.29 Thus, for four cases where the contrast
with War is explicit, note that:
War 1.287 reports rain fell at night and filled the reservoirs at Masada, but Ant. 14.390391 reports that God sent rain (
) and the abundance of water was
therefore .30
War 1.340341 reports that Herod escaped danger, but according to
the parallel at Ant. 14.462 he escaped .
War 1.656 reports only that the diviners said that Herods suffering was a punishment for his execution of some sages. While this
indirect statement is repeated in the parallel at Ant. 17.170, there the
whole paragraph is opened by Josephus own statement, unparalleled in War, that Herods disease became more acute, for God was
executing judgment upon him for his lawless deeds (Ant. 17.168).
War 2.183 says that Gaius Caligula punished Herod Antipas for his
cupidity by exiling him, but the parallel at Ant. 18.255 says it was
God who exiled him, thus punishing Herodias for her envy and
Antipas for listening to her blather.
Similarly, in general we find the later Josephus inserting Gods
providence into his paraphrases of his sources. Thus, first of all, note

See, inter alia: 1.225, 346; 2.8, 24, 60, 136, 280, 236, 349; 3.23; 4.10, 47, 60, 117,
128, 194, 239, 316; 5.107, 277, 312; 6.159; 7.65, 93, 245, 338; 10.14, 177, 214, 242;
11.169, 229, 231, 327; 18.309; 20.18, 91.
Ant. 1.14 (trans. Thackeray [Loeb]): But speaking generally, the main lesson to
be learnt from this history by any who care to peruse it is that men who conform to
the will of God, and do not venture to transgress laws that have been excellently laid
down, prosper in all things beyond belief, and for their reward are offered by God
felicity; whereas, in proportion as they depart from the strict observance of these laws,
things (else) practicable become impracticable, and whatever imaginary good thing
they strive to do ends in irretrievable disasters. For the focus on law in this programmatic passage, see above, n. 9.
In this case, given the plain declarative statement about God sending the water
there is no need to press as merely as if.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


that while virtually never appears in the Septuagint prior to

the post-biblical books,31 it appears with reference to Gods providence more than thirty times in books 110 of Antiquities, which
paraphrase the biblical books. And as for the postbiblical part of
Antiquities, note, for some obvious examples of the way Josephus
felt it important to insert this theme:
The Letter of Aristeas gives, in its paragraphs 187292, a long and
wearisome account of the table-talk between Ptolemy Philadelphus
and the Jewish sages. Josephus skips it all, summarizing it in one
paragraph and referring readers to the Letter itself it they want details.
Nevertheless, he picks out one passage for special attention: Aristeas
201 reports that the philosopher Menedemus asserted that all things
are governed by providence ( ),
and Josephus, before leaving this part of Aristeas behind and continuing with its 293 (Ant. 12.102), reverts to this paragraph and cites
the text nearly verbatim ( Ant. 12.101).
This is the only reference to divine pronoia in Aristeas, and Josephus
did not want to omit it.
According to 1 Macc 10:51 Alexander Balas asked Ptolemy VI to
allow him to marry his daughter, but Josephus, amplifying his application, has Balas explain that it is appropriate that Ptolemy form
such an alliance with someone who had regained his kingdom
(Ant. 13.80).
In I Macc 12:1 it is time () that works for Jonathan, but in
the paraphrase at Ant. 13.163 Jonathans success is .
The case is similar in his other two books of the nineties as well:
in his Life Josephus speaks just as directly and unabashedly, without
qualification, about Gods pronoia causing various things to happen
(15 , 301 , 425
),32 and in Against Apion 2.180181: when he wants to complain about the reprehensible views held by some philosophers, the
examples he cites are those who argue against the existence of God
or deny His providence over mankind (

The word appears in the biblical books of the Septuagint (which Josephus paraphrases in Ant. 110) only in LXX Daniel 6:18(19). Otherwise, it appears in the Septuagint only in Wisdom of Solomon and 24 Maccabees.
Note also Life 48, 83, and 138, where Josephus expresses his belief in divine
providence just as clearly, although without the use of pronoia.


daniel r. schwartz

What this means is that if, in the War, Josephus adopted the poise of
a rational historian speaking according to Roman notions, and thus
spoke much about daimones and Tyche and avoided committing himself to divine providence playing a role in events, in the Antiquities and
the Life, where he prefers to speak of God, hardly mentions daimones,33
and speaks freely about divine providence playing a rolea very central rolein history, he has given up trying to speak like a Roman.
Rather, in his unabashed apologies for the Jews and Judaism, and for
himself, he speaks of the Jews God the way they do. But this is the
case in the Wars Catullus story too.

Death of Persecutors
It is in this same later context, finally, that we should view Josephus
willingness, at the end of his War, to revel in the downfall of the
wicked Catullus, complete with the gory details of his hallucinations
and his bowel disease. This too is something quite extraordinary for
the War.34 Note, first of all, that in this book Antiochus IV Epiphanes
simply dies (War 1.40) with no comment on his persecution of the
Jews, whereas in Antiquities 12.357359 has Antiochus himself confess
that it was his persecution of the Jews, defiling of the Temple and
contempt for God that had brought his sufferings upon him, and Jose-

The adjective appears twenty-six times in War and only twice in Antiquities (6.214 and 13.314), while the noun appears seven times in War (five in
War 1) and seven in Antiquities ([6.168], 8.45, 13.317, 415, 416; 14.291; 16.210). As for
Life, there is only one passage402, where received text is the latter and Herwerden
suggests the former. None of either in Against Apion.
See Schlatter 1979, 4142. His survey of Josephus accounts of the suffering of the
wicked includes, from War, only our Catullus story, as well as Josephus report of the
final annihilation of the Zealots. Schlatter does not specify what passage he means for
the latter, but the only apparent candidate is, as the Catullus story, in the latter part
of War 7268274. Note, in this connection, that that whole passage (259274) has
quite a religious orientation, uncharacteristic of the War: 260 complains about impiety
toward God and injustice toward fellows, 262 denounces the paranomia of the Sicarii,
263264 complain (as Cohen notedsee above, at n. 9) about John of Gischalas impiety and violation of the Jewish dietary and purity laws; 267268 complain that by killing the high priests the Idumaeans caused the cessation of piety toward God just as
in general they introduced anomia. Given the way this section interrupts the flow of
Josephus narrative (as he himself recognizes at 274), it is not difficult to imagine that
it is, as the Catullus episode, a secondary addition to his original work.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


phus even pauses to argue with Polybius, who thought that the divine
retribution was a result of Antiochus attempt to defile someone elses
temple. Similarly, where 1 Macc 9:5455 reports that Alcimus suffered
after making a change in the Temples architecture, Josephus, in Ant.
12.413, makes the causal nexus clear and says that it was God (unmentioned in 1 Maccabees here) who smote Alcimus, just as Josephus also
enriches his Vorlages account of Alcimus sufferingwhich said only
that it was greatby prolonging it for many days. Again, Gaius
Caligula simply dies at War 2.2034 and it only happened (203,
that the messengers bringing Gaius command that Petronius kill himself were delayed, thus allowing news of Gaius death to
precede them and so save Petronius,35 while in the Antiquities both
Gaius death and the delay of the messengers are explicitly said to have
been Gods doing (Ant. 18.306) and Petronius is made to marveled at
the divine providence ( 309)
that so rewarded him for his attitude toward the Jews. Similarly, War
2.219 has Agrippa I simply dying with no details or comment, while
Ant. 19.346350 has him dying with great suffering after competing
with God, and Josephus has Agrippa himself admitting that it was God
who so sentenced him for doing so (347). Accordingly, when Against
Apion 2.143 gloats over the sufferings of Apion, it fits right into the
habits of this later Josephusjust as does the Wars Catullus story.36
Thus, even if the most specific case that might be made in this context, namely S. Schwartzs argument that War 7 records the death of
someone who died no earlier than 93 ce, turns out to be untenable, as
so often it turns out the suggestion has heuristic value: it sent us off

Note that a few lines earlier, in 2.201 Petronius voices the hope that God will
help convince Gaius to revoke his order to desecrate the templebut Josephus does
not, as narrator, say that this in fact happened. At 2.186, however, introducing the
story, he does say that God would take care of Gaius ordersquite an exceptional
statement for the War.
In passing, I will note that Apions demise, recounted so gloatingly, is followed
by Josephus summary statement (144): Such, then, was the end of Apions life, and
here let this be the end of our composition (
). That sounds like it is the end of the book, thus leaving us surprised by the
next 150 paragraphsso surprised that Thackeray translated and here let me bring
my remarks [upon him] to a closeturning into mere remarks and inserting the bracketed reference to Apion. It seems likelier that 2.144 originally ended the
work, and that the last long section of Against Apion was a later addition. In that
case, the original conclusion of Against Apion was just like the current conclusion of
the War.


daniel r. schwartz

on an analysis of Josephus Catullus story that, it seems, lends clear

support to the same basic thesis that Schwartzs suggestion was meant
to support. Or, nearly the same thesis, for if he wrote about War 7 in
general, our findings pertain only to the final story of the book. Given
the fact that it is both relatively simple to add a story at the end of a
book, and that Josephus had (as he reports in Life 424425) a special
personal interest in this story that could have encouraged him to do
so, it would not be wise to generalize our finding to the rest of book
7, although some other parts too might be late.37 Indeed, some of our
evidence distinguishing this passage from the rest of War, with regard
to declarative statements about divine providence, contrasts it with
other parts of book 7 itself. Accordingly, although it may well be that
the hodgepodge composition and relatively poor style of War 7 indicate that Josephus made changes in it over the years, what seems to
be clear, and our main point, is that at least the Catullus story, which
concludes the book, should be viewed as a later addition to it.
This means that, on the one hand, the Catullus story should not
be used as a guide for interpreting the War in general. On the other
hand, however, it seems that this story should be added to the dossier

See n. 34. In particular, one might wonder whether the story in War 7.407419
(shortly before the Catullus story) might be of similarly late origin. For on the one
hand it is similar to the Catullus story (Sicarii troublemakers in a Diaspora community, the leaders of which informed upon them to the Romans), and on the other hand
the way it praises heroic Sicarii, who endured terrible tortures unflinchingly rather
than acknowledge the emperor as lord, ought to be out of place in the War, where
Romans are not supposed to torture and where Sicarii are not supposed to be objects
of our admiration. (Note, by way of contrast, that although Josephus does portray
Essenes, at War 2.152153, as bearing torture bravely during the war, that is not such
a problem, both because Essenes are allowed, even supposed, to be admirable, and
because anyway the passage in question, where the verbs change from the present to
aorist, as was noted by Smith [1958, 283284], might well be secondary). True, the
Sicarii tortured to death in Egypt according to 7.407419 are no more praised for their
fortitude than the Sicarii who committed suicide in Masada according to the preceding episode of War 7 (see esp. 7.405406)but maybe that story too is late. Perhaps,
indeed, we should point to the fact that the table of contents in the Wars prologue
refers at 29 to the reduction of the last Judean strongholds before Titus triumph as
evidence that an original version of the book had just a short account of the strongholds, and that an older Josephus, preferring to have his book end with Jewish heroes
rather than with Titus triumph (see n. 22), expanded and relocated that narrative,
creating a whole new post-triumph conclusion to the work. At present, however, I see
no way to make any of this more than an intriguing possibility.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


documenting what happened to Josephus along his way from being a

Judean to becoming a Diasporan Jew.38

Appendix A: Not long after could be twenty years or more

The only argument cited by Jones in his rejection of S. Schwartzs case
(see n. 15), and one of those mobilized by Cotton and Eck as well (see
n. 16), is not very convincing. To understand it, we must note that
Josephus says that Catullus died not long after his sins against the
Jews in general and Josephus in particular (see below), thus demonstrating Gods providential punishment of the wicked. According to
Cotton and Eck (Josephus Roman Audience, 48),
Although is vague enough to allow for the passage of
an indefinite length of time, it is nevertheless extremely unlikely that
we should see it as marking Catullus death twenty years (or more)
laterextremely painful though that wasas punishment for what he
had done in the year 72 or 73 in Cyrene and later on in Romeand even
less likely that it can be described as taking place not long after.

Schwartz already anticipated this argument, answering it by saying

that Josephus cared little for chronology and was not above distorting facts to make a point.39 I dont think we need go that far in this
case, and the fact is that Josephus does often seem to be interested in
chronology and in fixing it properly. Rather, the fact is that Josephus,
just as we modern historians, not infrequently looks at periods of such
length, or even longer, as ignorable in terms of causal connections,
and that is especially the case when it is being done in the interests
of theology and justifying Gods ways. For One for whom a thousand
years are in His eyes like a single day, why should a twenty-year wait
between punishment and crime seem prohibitive? Did any midrashist
ever doubt that Mordechai had to cry out loud and bitterly (Esther
4:1) because his ancestor, Jacob, had made Esau do so (Genesis 27:34),
despite all the centuries in between?40 Did the intervening passage of

On this theme, see Schwartz 1999. For the differential use of Judean and Jew
see Schwartz 2007.
Schwartz 1986, 376, n. 14.
See, for example, Genesis Rabbah 67 (ed. J. Theodor and Ch. Albeck, 757758):
Anyone who says that the Holy One, blessed be He, is yielding, let his own innards
be yielded up. Rather, He is long forbearing but eventually does collect what is His


daniel r. schwartz

the entire reigns of Saul and David prevent the biblical writer from
seeing the expulsion of Abiathar as punishment for the sins of Elis
sons (I Kings 2:27//I Samuel 2:3435)? Did the twenty years between
Sennacheribs withdrawal from his attack upon Jerusalem in 701 bce
and his death in 681 bce stop biblical authors from recording the
events in two adjacent verses (II Kings 19:3637//Isaiah 37:3738),
thus finishing off Gods vengeance on the Assyrians that began one
verse earlier with the destruction of Sennacheribs army before the
walls of Jerusalem?41 Did the forty years between the crucifixion and
the destruction of the second temple ever stop Christian writers from
viewing the causal relationship between the two as self-evident?42 And,
as for Josephus, we may note, for some examples, that Josephus concludes his account of Titus triumph (summer 71) with a reference to
the Temple of Peace in Rome which was very quickly completed
(7.158) but we know that four years went by (Cassius Dio 66.15);43 in
Ant. 13.254 Josephus says that Hyrcanus began his campaign of conquests immediately upon hearing of the death of Antiochus Sidetes,
thus implying that it was Antiochus death that allowed for Hyrcanus
campaigns, but we know that more than fifteen years went by;44 at
Ant. 14.7778 Josephus complains that the sins of Aristobulus II and
Hyrcanus II in 63 bce brought about Herodian rule instead of Hasmonean rule, although he well knew that happened only more than
twenty years later; in Ant. 20.166 Josephus says that murders in the
Jerusalem in the 50s of the first century caused God to turn away from
the city and allow it to be destroyedwhich in fact happened more
than a decade later; etc.

due. [Thus, for example,] Jacob caused Esau to cry out bitterly once, and where was
he punished? In Shushan, the capital city, as it is written: And he cried out a loud and
bitter cry. On this type of material, see Heinemann 1970, 90.
For this example I thank Dr. Ronny Goldstein of Hebrew Universitys Department of Bible.
For a summary and bibliography, Gaston 1970, 2.
This example is cited in this connection by Schwartz 1986, 376, n. 14.
See Barag 1992/93, 112. No one will be surprised if similar discoveries someday
undermine the immediacy of Ant. 13.356, which functions precisely the same way
that 13.254 does.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


Appendix B: We Dont Know Who Preceded Catullus as Proconsul

of Crete-Cyrene
As often happens, the examination of a hypothesis, even if it results in
rejecting it, can engender progressif only the clarification of what we
dont knowon a related topic. In checking S. Schwartzs hypothesis
that Josephus Catullus is to be identified as L. Valerius Catullus Messalinus, who was ordinary consul in 73 ce, I noticed that, apart from
the argument examined in Appendix I, both of the other arguments
mobilized by Cotton and Eck,45 as they presented them, are predicated
on the assumption that he was proconsul of Crete-Cyrene no earlier
than 72 ce, and that that premise is based on an argument that is less
than convincing:
If Catullus himself was responsible for the inclusion of Josephus
name, which is clearly implied in War (BJ 7.448), then Catullus must
have become acquainted with Josephus in Rome before he set off for
his proconsulate in Crete and Cyrene. He could not have done so
before early summer 71 ce when Josephus first reached Rome with
Titus Caesar. In other words, Catullus proconsulate cannot be dated
before 72 or 73 cewhich fits also the chronology of War book 7.
However, what Josephus reports in War 7.447448 is that Catullus convinced Jonathan and some of those arrested along with him
to bring charges of rebellion against the most noted Jews in Alexandria and Rome. One of those accused as a result of this conspiracy
was Josephus, who composed the present work. There is nothing here
that implies that Catullus knew Josephus before the accusation was
brought. The way the story reads, Catullus urged Jonathan and other
Jews arrested with him to attack prominent Jews in Alexandria and
Rome, and they did so. If Jonathan was a Sicarius, as seems clearly to
be indicated by 7.437, he was probably of Judean origin, and that is
also indicated by Josephus statement (ibid.) that Jonathan
to Cyrene and also, apparently, by Josephus reference to the Jews of
Cyrene, in contrast to Jonathan, in 438.46 But if so, it is much likelier
That he could not have been ordinary consul in 73 ce because that would require
him beginning the term in absentia (as he could not yet have arrived from Cyrene)
and because the jump from proconsul to ordinary consul is too great for one year
Cotton and Eck 2005, 4648.
For the assumption that Jonathan was a Judean see, for example, Rajak 2002, 183,
22122, also Smallwood 1981, 369370 and Barclay 1996, 23940. Note that Josephus
distinction between Jonathan and the local Jews of Cyrene parallels that just earlier, at


daniel r. schwartz

that he, rather than Catullus, would know (of ) Josephus, have a grudge
against him, and put his name on the list of the accused.
To this we may add, moreover, that when Josephus tells the same
story in Life 424425 all that is said is that when Jonathan was sent,
bound, by the ruler of the region (Cyrene) to the emperor he said that
I had sent him money and arms. As in the next sentence too, where
Vespasian is said to have realized that Jonathan was lying and therefore condemned him to death, there is no indication that the governor
of Cyrene had been involved in accusing Josephus.
At this point, therefore, I began to wonder whether Catullus wasnt
in fact proconsul of Crete-Cyrene as early as 70 or 71. True, Professor
Eck explained to me, quite convincingly, that while moving the proconsulship up a year or two would avoid the problem about in absentia entry into the consulship, it would not avoid the other problem
(too big a jump in the cursus honorum) or a third one, namely, that
the proconsulship of Crete-Cyrene is too lowly a post for a patrician
such as L. Valerius Catullus Messalinus. Nevertheless, the question of
Catullus predecessor in that proconsulship took on a life of its own,
and it may be that reviewing the evidence should lead us to revise a
widely-accepted datum. I will present the data in brief:
1. Ecks list of the provincial fasti includes A. Minicius Rufus as proconsul of Crete-Cyrene in 71 or 72 ce. This depends upon a single inscription from Cyrene, Inscriptiones graecae ad res romanas
pertinentes (IGRR) I 1036, which shows that A. (or L.) Minicius
Rufus was proconsul when some emperor, whose name was not
preserved, was tribunicia potestate III, cos. III, pater patriae
titulature that fits 71 ce.
2. However, that imperial titulature also fits 40 and 43 ce47for which
reason PIR2 opens its entry on A (L.?) Minicius Rufus by leaving all
three possibilities open.48
3. True, that PIR2 entry does go on say that fortasse the Vespasianic
dating is to be adopted, just as was already stated in PIR1 (II, p. 380,
no. 442), which is all that is said in the commentary in IGRR I 1036

7.410416, between other Sicarii and local Jews of Egypt. That those Sicarii were from
Judaea is made clear by 410.
See Ruggiero 1961, 36, 298.
PIR2 V/2 (1983) 296, no. 626.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


ad loc.49 Given the fact that they recognize 40 and 43 as possibilities,

this must mean more probably (and not just possibly). But if we
ask them why, we find only arguments which have in the meantime
lost their basis:
a. The only reason PIR1 gives for preferring the Vespasianic dating
is the possibility (fortasse) that this Minicius is to be identified as L. Minicius Rufus, who was consul in 88. If that were
true, already what we know about ancient life expectancy would
exclude the possibility that he was a proconsul more than forty
years earlier. However, the younger Pliny refers in his Letters
(10.72) to a letter from Domitian to a Minicius Rufus, showing he had been a governor of Plinys own province (PontusBithynia) under that emperor, and Sherwin-White, who is
followed by Eck, has argued that the individual in question was
L. Minicius Rufus, consul in 88.50 But if L. Minicius Rufus was
indeed governor of that proconsular province sometime under
Domitian, i.e. after 81, it is very unlikely, as Eck argued, that he
had already held another position of that rank anywhere else,
such as in Crete-Cyrene, a decade or more earlier.51
b. The only reason PIR2 gives for preferring the Vespasianic dating is its statement, supported by a reference to Degrassi, that
our proconsul of Crete-Cyrene is likely (verisimile . . . potest)
identical with the first of the two consuls mentioned in a socalled tessera gladiatoria (ILS 5161k) that reads L. Minic. [and]
L. Plotio, and that he might (fortasse) be of Vespasians days.52
Now, on the one hand it is clear why Degrassi rejected Dessaus
assumption, in ILS ad loc., that this text refers to 88for in the
Although with a misprint: PIR1 says anno fortasse 71 . . . quamquam etiam de
anno 40 et de anno 43 cogitari potest but IGRR cites it as if it said anno fortasse
71 . . . quanquam de anno 40 et de anno 74 cogitari potest (emphasis added)a mistake which may have helped reinforce the notion that a Vespasianic dating is to be
See Sherwin-White 1966, 65960.
See Eck 1970, 117, n. 30 and 132, n. 92; PIR2, V/2, nos. 626627. For the record,
we note that it is not entirely certain that Plinys Minicius Rufus is to be identified
as L. Minicius Rufus (cos. 88), nor (as Eck notes, ibid., 132, n. 92) that the latters
proconsular governorship was in Pontus-Bithynia; and we also note that the unlikelihood of the same person serving in two proconsular governorships moved down from
wre vllig ungewhnlich in his 1970 book to only wre singulr in Eck 1982,
290, n. 32. Nevertheless, it is with probabilities that we must work, assumingin the
absence of evidence to the contrarythat our cases followed the usual patterns.
See Degrassi 1952, 130.


daniel r. schwartz
meantime it has become clear that the consul of 88 along with L.
Minicius Rufus was D. Plotius, not L. Plotius.53 But, on the other
hand, Degrassi is said to have thought that the tessera gladiatoria
was typical of the days of Claudius or Nero; his only reason for
suggesting a Vespasianic date seems to be the suggestion that the
tesseras L. Minicius is the same person as the one mentioned in
a text from Herculaneum (?) dated to Vespasians days54but
that suggestion is explicitly rejected, albeit for no stated reason,
in the very next words of the same entry in PIR2 (ad eum autem
non pertinet tab. cerata Herculan. PP3, 1948, 149, 1). Thus, it
seems that we are left, at present, with no reason to prefer a Vespasianic dating, rather than one under Gaius or Claudius, for the
proconsul of Crete-Cyrene mentioned in IGRR I 1036.

Alfieri, N. 1948. I fasti consulares di Potentia. Athenaeun n.s. 26:110134.
Arangio-Ruiz, V. 1948. Il processo di Giusta. La Parola del Passato. 3:129151.
Attridge, H. A. 1976. The Interpretation of Biblical History in the Antiquitates Judaicae
of Flavius Josephus. Missoula, Montana: Scholars.
Attridge, Harold W. 1984. Josephus and His Works. Pages 185232 in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Edited by M. E. Stone. Assen: Van Gorcum, and
Philadelphia: Fortress.
Barag, D. 1992/93. New Evidence on the Foreign Policy of John Hyrcanus I. Israel
Numismatic Journal 12, 112.
Barclay, J. M. G. 1996. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora From Alexander to Hadrian
(323 bce117 ce). Edinburgh: Clark.
Barnes, T. D. 2005. The Sack of the Temple in Josephus and Tacitus. Pages 12944
in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by J. Edmondson, S. Mason and
J. Rives. Oxford: Oxford University.
Beard, M. 2003. The Triumph of Flavius Josephus. Pages 54358 in Flavian Rome:
Culture, Image, Text. Edited by A. J. Boyle and W. J. Dominik. Leiden: Brill.
Bilde, P. 1988. Flavius Josephus between Jerusalem and Rome: His Life, His Works, and
Their Importance. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Cohen, S. J. D. 1979. Josephus in Galilee and Rome. Leiden: Brill.
Cotton, H. C. and W. Eck. 2005. Josephus Roman Audience: Josephus and the Roman
Elites. Pages 3753 in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome. Edited by J. Edmondson,
S. Mason and J. Rives. Oxford: Oxford University.
Degrassi, A. 1952. I fasti consolari dellimpero romano. Roma: Storia e letteratura.


Alfieri 1948, 116, 124.

Arangio-Ruiz 1948, 149, n. 1, referring to an unpublished text that refers to a
pair of consuls named L. Minicius and L. Plotius and reporting Degrassis opinion that
although the tessera seemed to be of a type typical of the days of Claudius and Nero,
a Vespasianic date could not be excluded.

josephus, catullus, and the date of the judean war


Eck, W. 1970. Senatoren von Vespasian bis Hadrian. Mnchen: Beck.

. 1982. Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis
138/39. Chiron 12: 281362.
Gaston, L. 1970. No Stone on Another: Studies in the Significance of the Fall of Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels. Leiden: Brill.
Geiger, J. 1983/84. The History of Judas Maccabaeus: One Aspect of Hellenistic Historiography. Zion 49:18 (Hebrew).
Heinemann, I. 1970. Darkhei HaAggadah. Jerusalem: Magnes (Hebrew).
IGRRInscriptiones graecae ad res romanas pertinentes, I. Edited by R. Cagnat et al.
Paris: Leroux, 1911.
Jones, C. P. 2002. Towards a Chronology of Josephus. Scripta Classica Israelica
McLaren, James S. 1998. Turbulent Times? Josephus and Scholarship on Judaea in the
First Century ce. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Mason, H. J. 1974. Greek Terms for Roman Institutions: A Lexicon and Analysis.
Toronto: Hakkert.
Mason, S. 2001. Flavius Josephus. Translation and Commentary. Volume 9: Life of
Josephus: Translation and Commentary. Leiden: Brill.
Michaelson, S. and A. Q. Morton, 1973. Elision as an Indicator of Authorship in
Greek Writers. Revue (of the International Organization for Ancient Languages
Analysis by Computer) 3:3356.
PIR1Prosopographia Imperii Romani, saec. I.II.III, Pars II (ed. H. Dessau). Berlin:
Reimer, 1897.
PIR2Prosopographia imperii romani, saec. IIIIII, Pars V/2 (ed. L. Peterson). Berlin:
de Gruyter, 1993.
Rajak, T. 2002. Josephus: The Historian and His Society. 2nd ed. London: Duckworth.
Rengstorf, K. H. 1979. A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus, III. Leiden:
Ritterling, E. 1927. Military Forces in the Senatorial Provinces. Journal of Roman
Studies 17:2832.
Ruggiero, E. de, 1961. Dizionario epigrafico di antichit romane, II. Roma: LErma
di Bretschneider (reprint of edition of 1895).
Schlatter, A. 1979. Die Theologie des Judentums nach dem Bericht des Josefus. Hildesheim
and New York: Olms (reprint of edition of 1932).
Schrer, E., 1973. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 bc
ad 135), I (new English ed. by G. Vermes et al.). Edinburgh: Clark.
Schwartz, D. R. 1992. Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity. Tbingen:
Mohr (Siebeck).
. 1999. From the Maccabees to Masada: On Diasporan Historiography of
the Second Temple Period. Pages 2940 in Jdische Geschichte in hellenistischrmischer Zeit: Wege der ForschungVom alten zum neuen Schrer. Edited by
A. Oppenheimer. Mnchen: Oldenbourg.
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327 in Jewish Identity in the Greco-Roman World. Edited by J. Frey, S. Gripentrog
and D. R. Schwartz. Leiden: Brill.
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Book 7. HTR 79:373386.
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Oxford: Clarendon.
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HUCA 29:273313.


daniel r. schwartz

Stern, M. 1987. Josephus and the Roman Empire as Reflected in The Jewish War. Pages
7180 in Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity. Edited by L. H. Feldman and G. Hata.
Detroit: Wayne State University.
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and M. D. Herr. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 1991 (Hebrew). This article was originally
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Yuval Shahar

On dawn on Friday May 11th 1838, the American scholar Edward

Robinson ascended the pass above Ein-Gedi. My attention, he wrote,
was particularly directed to the ruin called by the Arabs Sebbeh . . .
situated towards the south upon a pyramidal cliff rising precipitously
from the sea. . . . The truncated summit of the lofty isolated rock forms
a small plain inaccessible; and this is occupied by the ruin. We had
been greatly struck by its appearance; and on examining it closely with
a telescope [from a distance of 17 km! Y.S], I could perceive what
appeared to be a building on its northwestern part, and also traces
of other buildings further east. . . . This spot was to us for the time
a complete puzzle . . . But subsequent research leaves little room to
doubt, that this was the site of the ancient and renowned fortress of
Masada.1 After summarizing Josephus account, Robinson concluded:
This description of Josephus corresponds very exactly with the character of Sebbeh as seen from a distance; and there is little doubt that
future travelers, who may visit the site, will find other and more traces
of its ancient strength. The building now visible on the northwest, and
the columns described by the Arabs, are not improbably the remains
of Herods palace.2
From now on Herods palace would serve as the litmus paper for
the credibility of Josephus topographical descriptions of Masada.3 De
Saulcy transferred the palace to the western side of the central fortress, identifying it with the Byzantine church.4 But the French scholar
Emmanuel Guilliaume Rey once again located it, as had Robinson, in

Robinson 1841, 525.

Ibid. 526. In note 6 Robinson credits his companion Eli Smith, who was the first
to identify Masada with Sebbeh.
For the intricate and fascinating history of research on Masada, see the convenient
survey of Yadin 1966, 23855. Each of the early researchers described the research history of Masada up to his own time; the most detailed one is Schulten 1933, 3052.
De Saulcy 1853, 130; he visited Masada on 11.1.1851. Sepp 1863, 67177 followed
this identification.


yuval shahar

the north and even strengthened this identification when, on 24 January 1858, he found the remains of a mosaic floor on the upper terrace
of what is known today as the Northern Palace.5 Tuch did not visit
Masada, but his thorough analysis of Josephus descriptions together
with reports of modern field work led him to locate the palace in the
north, although he identified it wrongly with the block of storehouses.6
However, when Conder mapped the fortress, he noticed the other
palace in the west, and assumed (probably) that this was Herods
palace.7 Schulten, surveying Masada in March 1932, fixed the view that
Herods palace was in the west and not in the north.8

Where did Josephus locate the palace?

Schultens conclusion seemed natural following Thackerays 1927 Loeb
translation of Josephus, which became the standard translation. This
implied that the palace was built on the western slope. Let us examine
this passage more closely.
, ,
(War 7.8.3 [289]). Thackeray translates
this (LCL): There, too, he built a palace on the western slope, beneath
the ramparts on the crest and inclining toward the north.
There are two problems here: slope and western. First, it is important to note that Josephus uses the noun anabasis only three times, all
of them with the meaning of ascent (and not slope).9

Rey 1860, 28598 and Plates 2526.

Tuch 1863, 32.
Conder 1883, 41721. On the plan (ibid. 419) Conder wrote cautiously: Ruins.
Probably Herods Palace; the description itself sounds more certain in tone: The
position is exactly that in which Herods palace is described by Josephus (ibid. 420).
Note also the slight differences in tone from his first publication in 1875 (after his
visit in 5.3.1875): I think . . . (ibid. 134135); through his book published in 1878:
where Josephus places Herods palace (ibid. 142); to the last in 1883: The position
is exactly . . . (as quoted above).
Schulten 1933, esp. 47, 6872.
This is the only occurrence in War. The other two are in Ant. 9.11the ascent
between Jerusalem and Ein Gedi; 18.86the Samaritans who have rebelled against
Pontius Pilate prepare their ascent up to Mount Gerizim. Both here
(87) and in our case (War 7.8.3 [280]) Josephus uses the noun as an equivalent to our anabasis, thus, no doubt, the right translation of both is ascent and not
slope. As a matter of fact the classical English translation of Whiston 1737, has at
the western ascent; there are other translators who choose the same direction, like

masada as test case


In this sentence there are four different prepositional phrases:

and accusative in descriptive sentences in Josephus is used
to mean in or on the place X, or towards or beyond the place X.
In our sentence the phrase . . . means towards the
and gen. means in Josephus coming out of and in our context
coming out of the west, so that together the two
phrases mean towards the ascent coming out of the west.
and genitive means underneath and in our context
. . . underneath the walls of the akra.
and accusative means in Josephus tends towards and in our
sentence . . . the (palace) tends towards, i.e.
is visible to the north.
The various translations related to the two first phrases as if they
were joined, as on the western slope10 but in a construction like this
Josephus would have used an adjective 11 or and accusative12 or a locative dative.13 He uses a sentence with exactly this structure to characterize the foundations of Phasaelis in the valley north of
Jericho (War 1.20.9 [418]):

the German lexicon of Gustav Boettger 1789, 176: an dem westlichen Zugang; the
new German edition by Michel and Bauernfeind (1969): am westlichen Aufstieg,
and some more.
In contrast to the diversity of translations of anabasis as ascent or slope, there is
a consensus among the various different translators and editions that all combine the
west and the slope/ascent as a single expression.
is used usually for the western stoa (portico) on the Temple Mount:
War 6.2.1 (151), 3.1 (178), 4.1 (220); the western wall of the Temple Mount: Ant.
15.410; the valley to the west of the Royal Stoa: ibid. 411; and in some cases where
Josephus locates peoples in the oikumene: Ant. 1.135, Apion 1.65, 67.
For instance in War 5.5.8 (238) the Antonia fortress is located between the western and northern porticoes . This sort
of formation is used especially in sentences in which and accusative means in
the place x and immediately after and accusative. It means western/eastern and
alike: for example, the gully in the western part of the ravine near Jotapata
War 3.7.14 [191]); cf. the Psephinus tower ibid. 5.4.3
Locative dative: e.g. the river Jordan as a western border of the Amorites
: Ant. 4.95. There are also sentences which combine the adjective and
and dat. loc. For instance: the historians know only those peoples that live along the
sea shore both in the east and in the west
(Apion 1.65).


yuval shahar

The palace in Masada


. . .


Here Thackeray translates: in the

valley to the north of Jericho

Mike Livneh and Shemaryahu Gutman, who were the first to correctly
identify the Northern Palace, explained what seemed like this inaccuracy by the fact that the hill is sharp at its northern end, so that the
concept of the northern slope hardly exists, and is merely the continuation of the western slope.14 However our grammatical analysis
shows that we do not need any explanations, but should simply marvel
at Josephus exact gaze and expression. From his viewpoint in Camp
F, the camp of Silva, he described what he saw,15 like a film camera
panning round the details of the landscape to produce one continuous view:

[the palace] set towards the ascent

coming out of the west
Underneath the walls of the akra
tending to the north

So far so good? Yes and no. Yes, because we can now confirm the
credibility of Josephus description. But no, because following the
extensive excavations headed by Yigael Yadin, we now face the challenge of why Josephus neglected the Western Palace, the great official
palace of Masada.16 Here we must return to the subject of the title of
our paper: Josephus the stage manager at the service of Josephus the


Livneh 1953, 510. Gutman 1954, 31; 1954b, 267; 1965, 27. Avi-Yonah et al. 1957, 53.
For the importance of autopsy for Josephus and arguments for his presence in
the Roman camp of Silva see my discussion, Shahar 2004, 192207.
Yadin 1966, 11739; Netzer 1991, 23118.
For Josephus as dramatist see Price and Ullmann 2002; Chapman 2005.

Picture 1: Masada from Camp F

masada as test case



yuval shahar
Topographical terminology as accessories to the scenery

The stage manager sets on his stage only those accessories which are
necessary to the plot, and delineates the topographical and architectural features, so that the spectator can see clearly that this is an
impassable cliff, this is a protected road which leads to the palace, and
there is the weak point from where the besiegers aim to break through
the defenses. The historian delineates the scenery with his words. Thus
he has to use his terms very precisely, so his reader can distinguish
between the various paths, the different parts of the hill, etc. and eventually follow the action in the arena of battle.
Josephus used his topographical terms very precisely in delineating
the arena of Masada. I shall use the example of the sentences which
connect the path that comes from the west with the palace and the
First Josephus declares that there are only two ascents to the rock
of Masada, and that the easier one is from the west
(War 7.8.3 [280281]). Then, as we have already noted, he locates the
palace towards the ascent which comes from the west, under the walls
of the akra, and facing the north wind.

, ,
(War 7.8.3 [289]).

Following this, we are told that King Herod barred the path which
came from the west at its narrowest point by a great tower, distant no
less than a thousand cubits from the akra.18 This tower it was neither
possible to pass nor easy to capture.


(ibid. [293]).
And finally, because the western tower prevented Silva from entering Masada via the path which comes from the west, Josephus writes
that the Roman general had discovered only one spot capable of
supporting eart